Last month, Practice Edge gave you insights into the advantages of working with the media and ideas on how to prepare yourself to speak with reporters. This month, we’ll address how to introduce yourself to, and then work with, the media. As we discussed last time, keep in mind that your goal is to present yourself as an expert on specific topics, such as estate planning or education savings, and to ask the reporter to add you to her source list and call you when she’s working on relevant stories.
Six Rules of Engagement for Media Success
These are the key rules you need to understand before you begin your outreach:
1. Know the publications you’re about to contact: Familiarize yourself even more with the publication’s scope and style. More importantly, know the reporter’s beat–those subject areas the reporter covers.
2. Keep it relevant: Translate the knowledge you gained from learning about the publication and the reporter into story ideas that are specific and meaningful to them.
3. Contact reporters at appropriate times and through preferred methods: Most reporters prefer being contacted by e-mail. Most morning newspapers have evening deadlines; weekly publications often have a Thursday deadline; monthlies usually have deadlines of the middle of the preceding month. Avoid calling reporters when they’re on deadline, unless you’re returning their call on a timely story.
4. Gain a quick assessment of the reporters’ knowledge and experience: Listen for direct clues from them and ask them about their background in an engaging conversational manner.
5. Be inclusive: Reporters want to write stories about issues that are relevant to a large audience. So think about what the most meaningful aspects of the story are to the audience and focus on those issues in your answers.
6. Think about your audience: Identify your specific audience–you can even ask the reporter about the demographics of the readership. Think of the interview as a way to transmit substance. As such, don’t talk to the reporter, talk through them to your potential clients.
Now that you’re familiar with the rules of engagement, it’s time to introduce yourself or call to pitch a story idea.
Introducing Yourself, Then Pitching a Story
The simple idea behind making an introduction is to communicate your areas of expertise and provide your contact information. Depending on your contact list, you can e-mail or mail the biography you created previously along with your business card and any other relevant information. The purpose of this outreach is to get added to a reporter’s source list.
As for how to pitch a story, there are two modes in which you’re likely to talk to reporters: reactive and proactive.
In the reactive mode, a reporter contacts you looking for information or insight. As a rule of thumb, always get back to the reporter even if you don’t have the answer they’re looking for. Just keep in mind that reporters work on varied deadlines and what is quick turnaround for some may not be timely enough for others. If you miss their deadline, still call them to explain that you were busy. This will ensure that they’ll call you again for future stories.
The second mode–proactive–is more difficult and it’s one of reporters’ biggest challenges. This is the scenario where you call the reporter to pitch a story or a specific development. The best way to be effective is to watch for industry trends and issues and present relevant ideas to reporters accordingly. We’ve outlined a few examples of specific story ideas for illustration purposes:
Investor/client trends. Clients are becoming more concerned with their overall financial plan instead of just the way their investments are managed.
Investment trends. Alternative investments, especially hedge funds, are top of mind for most clients.
Regulatory issues. Take a stance or viewpoint on SEC investigations into Wall Street and investment company practices.
Company/corporate trends. Local publications are particularly interested in local companies, so any insight is appreciated.
Practice management trends. Savvy advisors are increasingly using media relations to promote their practices!!
Human interest. Clients who are involved in philanthropy or charitable giving
Things to Remember, Things to Avoid
When you’re interviewed by a reporter, think about how you want the final article to read. This requires deciding your message points before the interview and sticking to those points during the conversation. Here are some general rules.
o Use clear language. Always think of putting your answers into language that a layman would understand.
o Be concise. As with most things in the media world, the shorter the better.