Excerpted from the book on mindful business management, Business Black Belt.
Guns are always loaded. . .
Everything is on the record.
Your approach to a PR interview will make a world of difference in what appears in print or how you come across on camera.
When I had my first golden opportunity for an interview with a business reporter from the Santa Barbara News Press in California, where I had started my do-it-yourself used car lot, I thought I had made the big time. I was very positive throughout the interview.
He asked me if there were any bad times, and I responded that when the weather wasn’t good, people didn’t show up. This was a big mistake. Guess what leaped out of the brief little article about my business? Something like: “…but, Franklin admits that when the sun isn’t out, the buyers don’t come looking.” Santa Barbara is on the coast and it often takes until noon to burn off a morning cloud cover. Anyone who read the article was sure to remember (via their subconscious use of the memory trick I taught you) that their car wouldn’t sell unless the sun was out. Consequently, as luck would have it, the next weekend was cloudy and very few people showed up.
How will it look in print?
When I go in to talk with editors and writers, I want them to rave about my product. I want them to say all this great stuff about my company. But what they always seem to be looking for is what I’m not telling them. I found out early on that everything you say to a writer can be in the article. So, before you talk to any reporter, imagine that everything you say will appear in print. Consider how certain responses will look if only individual sentences or statements used out of context are used. Especially be careful of your little offhand remarks. Know your facts, because reporters are very concerned with accuracy.
If your thinking is pure to begin with and you’re doing the right thing in business, you don’t have anything to worry about. But make sure you’re preaching what you practice.
A journalist is a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice,
a regent of sovereigns, a tutor of nations.
Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.
~ Napoléon Bonaparte, military leader and statesman
Uh, we do have a few problems…
You may even want to build in some deliberate bad news. (Unlike the unconscious reference to the weather effects above, this is a conscious reference.) In our case, our biggest problem in life has been explaining to people how ridiculously easy it is to use our product. But it’s been tough getting that across. We tend to play down the problem of letting people know about our product before they beat their brains out developing their own employee manual or business plan. We play that problem down because we figure it’s our problem and we’ll just deal with it. In other words, control the downside — give reporters something to tell that you ordinarily wouldn’t say but gives readers some insight to your problems.
Design for the media
“This product is so good, I almost couldn’t find anything wrong with it,” said one reporter. A good reviewer is looking for some limitations to report; some flaw to expose. I think you can and should make a product that no one can find fault with. I look at our products and wonder what could the press find fault with? Part of the design consideration for your product or service must include what will appeal to reporters. They maintain an excellent pulse on the market, so developing a relationship with them is highly valuable. Their product recommendations or their responses to your product can be more important than those of your customers. That’s because a favorable review can be leveraged into a ton of sales. So designing and promoting your product for a favorable review is crucial.
For example, for years JIAN concentrated on the content of BizPlanBuilder from the input of thousands of customers. But we seriously neglected the installation routine. We felt that it was easy enough to import the text of financial templates into any word processor or spreadsheet. Customers had a little trouble installing it but we didn’t give it that much importance. We thought customers could figure it out and they’d be on their way to writing their business plans. We thought it was more important to our customer that we use our resources to focus on the content, not the razzle-dazzle of the computer.
However, some reviewers liked our competitor’s installation routines and were sidetracked away from our superior content. I thought our superior plan would shine through. But customers read reviews, so now we have a powerful menu with a start-up and installation routine. We’ve even built in several additional features to help our customers get started even faster.
A news sense is really a sense of what is important,
what is vital, what has color and life—what people are interested in.
~ Burton Rascoe
Editors as focus groups
The moral of the story is to pay attention to what reviewers want and recommend that you do.
I never used to give reporters so much importance. I thought they reported mostly bad news. But after getting to know a few of them, I see a different perspective that needs to be appreciated. I had a recent revelation about editors, writers, and reporters in general…
Keeping balance in the universe
They’re not really going around saying, “Bad news is good news.” Their job looks to me like they’re keeping balance in the universe. You’ve got all these characters—me included—advertising products and claiming their own is the best. The reviewers feel they’ve got to go in and find the truth. If they find that a product is great, they’ll say it’s great. But if you’re doing something behind the scenes that’s not great, they want to find it and expose it. They’re concerned and really want to protect the public from any evil businesspeople who may be trying to cheat them.
Most writers want to tell you what companies aren’t telling you. A company’s advertising will tell you the good news, and the reporter adds the balance of the other stuff the company is not telling you.
When you read the articles and the ads, you get a more balanced picture. That’s why it appears to me that their purpose in the bigger picture is keeping balance in the universe.
Most journalists want to tell the truth. They’re not out to make someone look bad—unless the person deserves it. When you can appreciate this perspective on journalists, perhaps you can be at peace with what they do, make news that’s worth reporting, and go on about your business.
Business Black Belt Notes
- Make sure your product or service design appeals to reporters.
- A favorable review can be leveraged into a ton of sales.
- Train your staff—how will their statements look in print?
- A journalist’s job is to keep balance in the universe.
- Click here to Learn about PublicityBuilder PR Management App & Press release Templates >>