How should I speak to reporters?
Anthony Park, Escondido
Carefully, assuming everything you say is on the record.
Getting a reporter’s call might be an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise on a subject. Or it could mean you’re on the hot seat.
Assume you’ve got one chance to get your story right. There’s no time for a “do-over.”
Former president Ronald Reagan regularly got into trouble by making offhand comments that were subsequently clarified by the White House press office. Editors cut Reagan slack since they were dealing with the world’s most powerful man and they wanted access to him the following week.
However, you don’t have the same luxury Mr. Reagan had. You must get your story right the first time.
To maximize your media opportunity, keep your comments simple, direct, straightforward and easily understood. Focus on one point that you want the reader to take away, and remember that a reporter’s job is not to interpret your comments — merely to publish them.
Speaking to a reporter means you’re actually addressing all the readers that the media outlet speaks to. The reporter’s boss may also slant your words or intent, using your story to pursue some hidden agenda.
Not understanding this may explain why stories don’t always come out the way the interviewee intended.
Take T.J.Higgins. As the VP/Marketing for Schering-Plough (which owns Dr. Scholl’s), Mr. Higgins recently explained in the NY Times why the company is giving away millions of open-toe insoles for women in a giant sales promotion.
Mr. Higgins said (and I’m not making this up); “What we wanted to do is talk to women who are interested in fashion and style in their vernacular rather than what our vernacular might have been in the past.”
Huh? Mr. Higgins probably didn’t say what he meant, but he only had one shot at it. He didn’t keep it short, sweet and simple, and readers were probably confused.
He might have been better off saying nothing at all.
Remember this — reporters rarely call to say “Hi.” They need an angle to make a story special. And they want your unique knowledge to tell that story. Handled properly, everyone comes out a winner.
With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.
Mr. Marketing watches what he says at all times. You can ask him your own marketing questions at www.askmrmarketing.com.