Business Essentials

Getting your message out: ten top tips to power up your media skills

Getting your message out: ten top tips to power up your media skills

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Raising the profile of your business depends on good PR – so sharpen your skills and land your story with these ten key tips from journalist and founder of Journolink, Tetteh Kofi and presenter and PR expert Peter Ibbetson. 


Define your story type 

Different types of stories relate to different types of media, so understand the kind of story you’re about to put out and where it should go,’ says Tetteh. Stories around launches or established products work for specialist media and bloggers; news items must relate to something in the zeitgeist, and sit in mainstream print and online, specialist titles and social platforms. Thought pieces are insights into a salient trend, and popular with mainstream media and podcasters. And be aware that all have different lead times to publication – from a day or two for a daily newspaper to 3–6 months for national magazines.  


Relationships are the DNA of PR 

‘Nobody sees anything in a vacuum, and that includes your business, brand or product. They will always see them in relation to something else,’ says Tetteh. ‘It’s the juxtaposition of one thing to another that makes news; nobody is going to be interested in you punting your sales messages.’ He recommends asking yourself if your story passes the ‘so what?’/’no yawns’ test – that will determine whether it has news merit. Namely, is there a threat, does it inspire, does it fulfil a significant lack or has it been endorsed by peers? 


Always be topical 

Make your story relevant, but unexpected. ‘The more creative your angle, the more likely it will be picked up,’ says Tetteh. ‘The best way to do that is by social listening – hashtag PR and find out what’s trending. In that way, you can identity the news agenda for your stream – and if you’re working with the news agenda you give the journalist shareability’. And remember, timing is crucial, you’ve got to hit the story at just the right time for it to land.  


Get to the point  

‘Answer the ‘Five Ws’ in your press releases – who, what, when, where, why…and also how. And keep it as short as you possibly can (don’t try and tell the story of Ulysses). Tetteh also recommends having one big idea in your press release, with killer quotes that allow you to expand on the facts in the story, fantastic high-res photographs and the source of any statistics and figures included – this makes your message jump out and the journalist’s life a little easier.  


Personalise emails appropriately 

Journalists are usually time poor, with overflowing inboxes, so emails should be equally concise for cut through. The headline of an email is vital to giving it visibility. ‘You must refer to the proposition you are making me, and get straight to the point with what you’re offering in the email itself,’ Tetteh notes. ‘You're not sending me the email to ask me how I am.’ However, personalising the email by referencing previous work can be effective when sending a press pitch or an invitation – providing a connection between their interests and your story. 


Prepare for interviews 

‘If you haven't got an objective that enhances your brand or a reason for doing an interview other than “I'm going to see my name in the paper”, then don't do it, because it'll go wrong,’ says Peter. ‘Think about your audience’s expectations and perceptions of you and about who are you talking to. That will define the tone, speed and words you use. And don't go in there [to speak to a journalist] with an empty mind, and just talk. You need a maximum of three clear messages you want to land. And don’t forget to consider the questions you don’t want to be asked. You’ll be destabilised if they come up and you don't have an answer.’ 


Stay in control 

Interviews are your opportunity and you have to stay in control. ‘Make sure that the stories being put out there are yours, and not the agenda of the journalist,’ says Peter. ‘They’ll be fine with that – but if you don't take control, they will.’ Understanding the head of the journalist is key: ‘He or she has to create good broadcast, print, radio or TV content. You are there to help them create that – but on your terms.’ Finally, he also recommends removing every factor that might throw you off balance, from turning your phone off to not having a glass of water nearby that you might tip over.  


Ditch the Q and As 

For Peter, authenticity is key when answering a journalist’s questions. ‘Don't ask for PR help in writing down questions and answers for you, because the words that come through aren’t your words. They won’t roll well off your tongue, and flow is what creates a good interview where people believe what you're saying. By all means focus on what might be asked and how you might respond, but don't try to memorise scripted, word perfect Q and As because that won't sound right at all.’  


Land your points early 

‘Don’t ignore the first question in an interview, but prepare for your first answer - and that should be the three points that you want to talk about. Then move on,’ notes Peter. ‘I call these points my lily pads because I can keep bouncing back onto them during the interview. He suggests reinforcing them by mentioning them at the end of the interview too when answering the last question. ‘As you walk away from the interview you should feel good if you’ve landed your messages and the interviewer should feel good because you've given them good content - and that’s what it’s all about’. 


Nothing is off the record 

And finally – remember in print, nothing is off the record, says Peter. ‘If you have a journalist anywhere near you, don't drop your guard. The same applies to radio - if there is a microphone in the building, in sight, assume it is on, even if everybody tells you it's off or there's been an electricity cut and act as if everything you're saying is going out live. TV, too, requires that you stay focused – the camera is ‘always on’, even if you think it's not. Remember that, and it should keep you out of trouble.’ 


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