Often sole professionals are contacted by radio, television, newspapers or magazines and asked to contribute to the "story" they are working on. It is very important that you understand what you are doing so you will not say things you will regret but instead will benefit from the promotion and help the audience. Following are some basic facts that will help you get started.
1. Goals - The media want to educate and entertain their audience. They want to draw the attention of the audience, get the "scoop" and sell themselves to the world. Your goals may not mesh with these so you will have to be clear about whether you will participate when you are called and how you will contribute.
2. Timelines - Most times, journalists and reporters are on a very short timeline and need to have your interview or information immediately. You do not have to respond or participate - especially if you do not have time to think about what you will say.
3. Competency - Media personnel are not trained about your area of expertise and therefore may ask you about things out of your competency. This is your opportunity to educate them and do appropriate referrals.
4. Boundaries - One of the slogans for media is "What bleeds - leads". Another is "sex sells". You might be asked questions that seem to pressure you to say things that are inaccurate, confusing or misleading. Don't get trapped. Think about the question and your answer carefully.
5. Clarity - Ensure that you correct any errors that the media make immediately. It is better to explain things to the journalist or reporter while you are on air or during the interview than to try to correct the mistakes after they are aired or in print.
6. Honesty - If you don't know - say you don't know. If you don't have information that has been requested, be clear about the fact that you don't have the information.. Just tell the truth in a simple manner.
7. Confidentiality - There are many things that are not acceptable to share with the media. Be very cautious to protect those the facts and details. Saying too much will not only hurt your client but may actually destroy your reputation and business.
8. Speculation - If you haven't seen a person professionally, you cannot comment on their condition. (If you have seen them, you cannot comment because of confidentiality). You will therefore need to stick to answering questions using research or general patterns rather than specifics. Be careful! Don't get trapped into saying something you didn't mean to say!
9. Your Professional Profile - Prepare and gather together information that the media can use repeatedly. I have a website and blog with pages designed for the media. They include my bio, high resolution pictures, a Media Release and Media Page. They also include my past media involvement and a listing of the speaking engagements that I have done over the past three years. When you set up a site, the journalist or reporter has access to the information needed to support your expertise - and saves you a great deal of time!
10. Preparation - The media is not interested in everything you have to say about a topic. In fact, they tend to focus on "sound bytes" or "quotes" and it is therefore important that you offer them good information in the proper format. Consider the questions that might be asked and write down carefully worded answers. Practice explaining things in short, complete sentences. If you have advance notice of the topic, quickly write down the points that you want to cover during the interview before it begins.
Working with the media can be a rich and rewarding aspect of your business - or a nightmare - depending on how you answer the questions and how your information is used. You may want to study and prepare with someone like Wayne Kelly at www.onairpublicity.com/ He will help you to understand the system and prepare so that both you and the media will do well because of your involvement.
Just like any aspect of your business, building relationships with the media takes time and respect. I have built a good reputation with personnel and when I am contacted for an interview I can enjoy it as part of the wonderful adventure of having my own business.