10 things business people should know about dealing with the media

Talking with the media can be a great way for a company or brand to gain exposure with the public, potential shareholders, investors, and business partners.

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However, in order to be able to fully use the media as a tool for your business, you need to understand what they want from you and why they want it. Here are 10 important tips to remember when engaging with journalists.

1. Journalists are not the enemy

It is important to note that just because you refuse to speak to journalists, does not mean they won’t write about you and your company. They might just have to speak to someone else about a particular issue concerning you, and this means you have less control over what is published. Remember, the law is on your side when it comes to irresponsible and incorrect reporting.

However, the fact is that a journalist needs you to provide them with important, unique information. They do not want to lose your trust as they know that you will simply stop speaking to them, and talk to other members of the media instead – their competition. In this sense, journalists generally want to work with you, not against you.

2. A press release is never enough

Most publications do not like to use a press release as their only source of information. In fact, if your company puts out a press release, then you should expect and prepare for journalists asking for interviews. The journalist will want their content to be original, and will ask specific questions geared towards their readership.

3. Ask about target audience

It helps to understand what the journalist is looking for before giving an interview, and one way to find this out is to ask who the target audience is. Once you understand who you are talking to, you will have a better idea of what will be published and how to answer questions.

4. Position yourself as an expert

The best way to promote your brand or company is to provide relevant information, insight or advice that cannot be found elsewhere. Position yourself as an expert. If you are an entrepreneur and have had a company fail, then be an expert on what not to do in entrepreneurship. Allow the readers to learn from your experiences and failures.

Good advice would be to avoid the typical answers, and be unique. For example, most foreign companies operating in Africa talk about local partnerships being key to success on the continent. This is not new information. What is less reported on is the steps to take to successfully find the right local partners. Use your personal experience to offer unique answers.

5. Let them ask “stupid” questions

Many journalists report across a range of sectors. This means that they may not have the expert knowledge, and the understanding of terms and concepts, that you might have. What might be considered an obvious question in your profession may not be obvious to a journalist. Allow for a discussion to take place around difficult topics and try keep things simple. If a journalist does not understand what you are talking about, how are they going to explain it to their audience?