By CJ Arlotta, CJ Media Solutions, LLC
Consider the following scenario: You’ve emailed your press release to reporters but neglected to consider there will be follow-up questions. Then, when journalists come looking for answers you don’t have, they feel neglected which, of course, is unfortunate for you and the coverage you’re seeking.
This often not only infuriates reporters but increases the likelihood of you being blacklisted from their inboxes. To prevent this from happening to you, plan accordingly. Following are several other tips that will help you get your press release noticed, as well as foster good relationships with the news makers in your neck of the woods.
Do Your Best To Stick Around After Pitching Reporters
While this seems like common sense, it’s often overlooked: Do your best to stick around after pitching reporters.
For example, don’t send reporters press releases before going away on vacation. Too often reporters reach out to the contact person listed on the press release only to receive an out-of-office messages in return.
If you’re not going to be able to respond to reporter inquiries, put someone else’s contact information on the press release. Determine who from your business has had experience with talking with reporters and, if there’s nobody else within your business capable of responding to journalists, wait until you get back from your trip.
It’s not worth damaging your relationship with reporters covering your space. They’ll remember you after you burn them, so do you best to deliver what you say you’re going to deliver.
Create Talking Points For Press Releases You Distribute
While answering questions from journalists is probably at the bottom of your priority list, you can make your life a little easier by writing talking points ahead of time — before you send out a release.
Prior to developing your talking points remember the following, especially if your crafting them for the first time: Talking points aren’t the same as outlines, so put aside what you learned in high school English (you’re not outlining Romeo and Juliet for your upcoming exam on 16th century literature).
While talking points and outlines are similar, talking points shouldn't be as detailed as outlines. Talking points are designed to guide you in the right direction when you’re responding to questions or sharing your story — not provide you with details you don’t already know.
What this means is you need to do some prep work before talking with journalists. Your talking points can’t save you if don’t know your stuff. They’re there to remind you of what you need to highlight when being interviewed, and that’s it.
For example, if you’re launching a new service for your customers, there may be a feature you want to ensure you include while being interviewed by a journalist. Prioritize your talking points — you’re not going to get through all of them so put the ones you want to get to first at the top of your sheet.
Oh, and don’t share your talking points with journalists. Talking points are for your eyes only.
Become A Short-Lived Reporter
Look at your news with an objective eye. What did you leave out of your press release? Which questions would you ask? Find the holes in your press release and make note of them.
It’s always easier to answer questions if you already know the answers to them, so in addition to writing out some talking points for your news, put your reporter hat on and do your best to ask the right questions.
A journalist will always ask questions about anything vague in your press release. Sift through the details to determine what needs to be expanded upon. It could be a phrase or simply a word.
Don’t stray from difficult questions. If there’s something you think of and it frightens you a bit, add it to your list and come up with an answer for it. Sometimes you need to ask yourself hard-hitting questions.
Understandably, as an IT professional, you more than likely operate like any SMB with limited time, money, and resources. Preparing ahead of time gives you the best opportunity to answer questions for journalists while focusing on what matters most at the end of the day: Your customers.
About The Author
CJ Arlotta is the managing member of CJ Media Solutions, LLC, a Stony-Brook, NY-based PR firm which provides a range of services for SMBs including ghostwriting, press releases, content creation, media relations, and more. He’s been a journalist for more than 10 years covering hospitality, healthcare, politics, and the IT channel. He’s written for Forbes, The Saturday Evening Post, ChannelE2E, Talkin’ Cloud, The VAR Guy, MSPmentor, and elsewhere. Prior to being a journalist, he worked as a communications specialist on political campaigns and for government officials.