Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @kimydavis. Kim Y. Davis is a Houston-based journalist, speaker and consultant. She writes and produces print, online and video content for various media outlets about sports, politics and other issues. As a consultant, she helps corporations, non-profits, entrepreneurs and individuals find their voice, develop their message and tell their story. Kim helps people to be heard in a time where there is so much noise. She uses communication as the tool and sports as the arena. As a speaker, she also draws on her background as a journalist, sports executive and athlete to address communications, leadership, community, diversity and wellness. For more info, visit thekdcompany.com
SmallBizLady: Do I need to hire a PR professional to get media coverage?
Kim Y. Davis: When determining whether or not you need to hire a PR professional, consider your goals and how much work you are willing and able to do to tell/sell your story. You can absolutely get media coverage without hiring a PR firm or consultant, but it’s not a bad idea to get some direction. There is a lot of information online and some PR firms/consultants offer workshops and webinars. Do your research before you make a decision about hiring a firm. Consider enlisting the help of an intern from a local university’s journalism or communications department if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional.
SmallBizLady: When should I hire a PR firm or consultant?
Kim Y. Davis: You’ll know it’s time to hire a PR firm or consultant if and when you want help developing your message and creating a communications strategy. If you don’t know where to start, it’s probably time to hire a professional. A tell-tale sign is if you want someone to also pitch you and/or your company for potential stories. Another indicator is when you are ready to take your communications plan to the next level and are willing to commit a line item in your budget for it. Keep in mind, getting media coverage is a process so be patient and know that it doesn’t happen over night.
SmallBizLady: What should we look for when hiring a PR firm or consultant?
Kim Y. Davis: Find out what your potential PR firm or consultant’s philosophy or approach is to getting coverage. Don’t expect them to give you a plan without being their client, but it is appropriate to get a sense of how they work. Be sure to interview them before you sign on the dotted line and know what you are looking for. Some things to look for include: have they worked in the media? Do they understand the roles of the decision makers at various media outlets? Do they have any relationships in or with the media? These are just a few of the things you should ask. Be sure to ask for references.
SmallBizLady: How do I craft a message for my company that engages the media?
Kim Y. Davis: The best message is a simply well-told story. That’s because people are drawn to good stories regardless of the topic. So the best place to start is by deciding what your story is and why that story is important. If you sell cakes, then start your story with how you started making cakes, why you started selling your cakes, and what makes your cakes so special. In other words: describe your cakes; distinguish what makes your cakes from different from other bakeries and tell them what’s in it for them if they buy your cakes (w-i-n).
In essence you’re answering the question, “Why should I care?” We always need to answer that question when we communicate our business, our products, our messages… our story. The “I” is whoever the audience is. Your message should be consistent, brief, focused, and easy to listen to or read. Also be credible by providing message supports: prove your points with stats, stories, and relevant verifiable quotes/information.
SmallBizLady: What are the key components of a successful pitch?
Kim Y. Davis: First of all, there is no secret formula or the perfect pitch. There are some things you shouldn’t do, but there is no magic potion that works every time. With that said, there are some things your pitch should include. For starters, the subject line of the pitch should be clear and brief. Don’t try to get creative or fancy…just tell them what it is. Write the name of the campaign and the essence of the pitch in the subject line, and then explain it in the body of the email. And for goodness sake, please be honest. If you’re pitching on someone else’s behalf, say that. If you’re making your own pitch, then move forward accordingly. If it’s your first attempt at pitching yourself or campaign, say that. Next build your pitch list. Yes, this requires more research but it’s worth it. Once you have your list, check out each name/outlet on the list to become familiar with them. Dig a little deeper to see if the reporter/producer/editor has done any stories about your topic. If so, proceed. If not, try to determine if your hook is a fit for him or her.
Spell check, spell check, spell check. Spelling errors are a big turnoff. It might sound silly, but us reporter types can be persnickety. Never add an attachment. Cut and paste your pitch into the body of the email. Again, you’re asking too much if you expect someone to open an attachment. In most cases it simply won’t happen. And finally, while this will sound like common sense… we all know common sense is not always common. So, be nice. Seriously open and close your pitch with a bit of professional politeness. I always end my pitches and requests with “thanks in advance for your time and consideration”. Your pitch might not yield a story, but your approach can certainly help you build a relationship or at least make a good impression.
SmallBizLady: I’ve been booked for an interview – now what?
Kim Y. Davis: Once you’ve been booked for an interview, take a moment to identify your business objective(s) to determine who you need to reach. Know what you want to say. This is your opportunity to deliver your message so take it! Create bullet or talking points for yourself. Don’t memorize them but do practice. The more you do it, the better you will get. Get comfortable with your talking points… in any order and let that be the focus of your interview preparation. Go back to the message/story you crafted earlier and develop two to three key points. If it’s TV, dress accordingly. Avoid distracting prints, large dangling jewelry and over the top makeup. Less is more. Ladies be sure to stay away from lip-gloss. In the age of HD TV, less is absolutely more. If you can’t get professional media training, practice in the front of a mirror and even record your answers with your phone or video camera.
SmallBizLady: How do we make the interview a win-win for the reporter/host and us?
Kim Y. Davis: Interview the reporter – ask what his/her objectives are. Know what the person interviewing you is looking for so you’re prepared. Don’t expect a reporter to send questions in advance. However do ask for a general overview of the upcoming interview. It’s also important to know the reporter’s deadline and how they plan to use the interview. Ask who else is being interviewed and what they’d like for you to contribute. Yes it appropriate to ask these questions. Just remember to be polite. Next, think about what you would say if you could write the headline or lead story. What quotes would you want attributed to you or your organization? Stay away from answers that are too technical. If you don’t know the answer just say so. Be brief, never answer “no comment,” and know that nothing is ever 100% off the record. Be positive and have fun, as it will come through in the interview. Reporters want good quotes and reliable information.
SmallBizLady: Why do some people seem to get more media coverage than others?
Kim Y. Davis: One of the questions I get more often than not is, “why do some people get coverage and others don’t?” While relationships do matter, so does accessibility and staying top-of-mind. A business owner or executive who is quotable and knowledgeable is every reporter’s dream. The current 24-hour news cycle creates a very different media environment than it did when I started in the business about 25 years ago. The people you see, hear, or read quotes from the most have been established as experts in their field and make it easy for people to find them. They make themselves relevant by tying what they do and know into current news topics or issues. They don’t wait for people to call them… they reach out… without being a media stalker… and remind the media what they do, what they know and that they are available.
SmallBizLady: What is the difference between public relations and advertising?
Kim Y. Davis: There is an old saying: “Advertising (Marketing) is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for”. Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media. Public relations is third-party validation through media outlets where someone else talks about the benefits of you, your company, book, service, or products. Advertising is you or your company telling your story through paid advertisement, collateral material, sponsorships or paid endorsements.
SmallBizLady: What is the one thing you advise all of your clients to do or not to do regardless of industry?
Kim Y. Davis: If I had a media-training bible, I’d start with this: Never text, tweet, Facebook, Instagram, Pin, or email anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper. Be careful what you social mediate: it can come back to bite you. Just like nothing is ever 100% off the record, nothing is ever really deleted from cyberspace.
SmallBizLady: As our companies grow, is it more important to have an internal or external communications plan?
Kim Y. Davis: As your company grows, it is important to have an internal and external communications plan. Internal communications engages the staff and creates a better team environment. External communications engages clients, potential clients, media, advocates, and supporters.
SmallBizLady: When should we start developing a communications plan?
Kim Y. Davis: While communications is always important and we all want to get our message out, make sure you’re ready before you unveil a huge campaign. Wait until you’re comfortable with where your business or product is: once you get people to subscribe, explore, and buy or otherwise sample you or your product…if you lose them, it will take three times the public relations or advertising effort (spend) to get them back.
“On Air” courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / www.freedigitalphotos.net
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