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You have the best products around, you have the brightest workforce, and you want to make sure that everyone knows about it. So you decide you want to do some PR work to bolster the current marketing and promotion you deal with elsewhere to help build you brand and your client base.

So how do you go about it? Surely all it takes is to get in touch with the papers and tell everyone how great you are, right? Wrong! Dealing with journalists to get what you want is not as straightforward as it might appear, and there are some gaping holes that many business owners fall into the first time they try to boost their profile.

Here are the top three things you should avoid when talking to journalists for the first time:

  1. Not having anything interesting to say – This is a tricky one, because to you, your business is the most interesting thing in the world. Let’s say you sell paper, for example. You might be able to tell someone exactly what weight of paper is needed to deal with each nuance of the business they can think of, or how much a ream of paper costs at trade without blinking. But is that really interesting to the outside world?
When you are speaking to a journalist you have to think about what makes a story, why should they write about your business, and what are they likely to be interested in? Often you will be surprised at what makes a good story, so spend some time thinking about this before you get in touch.

  1. Catching the journalist on the wrong day – Yes, this is a classic mistake, and is the sure fire way of ensuring that not only will you rub them up the wrong way, they are likely to remember it and are less likely to want to speak to you in the future. Journalists – a lot of them anyway – have egos, and that is not always good for the person on the receiving end of a brush off. So, to have the best chance of avoiding this, make sure you know how their week is structured and the best day to get in touch with them.
In the main, they will not try to be difficult, but the pressure that comes with a deadline can be immense, and calling at the wrong moment just as they are about to file copy is one of the worst times you can get in touch. Find out when the paper or magazine goes out, and what the printing schedule is by asking someone on the switchboard before you speak to a journalist. Then choose a day just after publication or some way in advance to get in touch with your pitch. That way they will be more relaxed and more likely to be looking for stories.
  1. Not building relationships – As journalists, we get the same complaint all the time: “You always speak to the same people.” This is an understandable gripe, but as a business owner, you also need to understand that when a journalist needs to get in touch for information, there is often no room for delay.
So saying to someone who is writing a piece in the next day or two that you can get back to them in a week is not going to cut it. If you want to get coverage, you need to put yourself out a bit, and that can even sometimes mean answering your phone on a lazy Sunday when you would rather be spending time with the kids. The more often you are available and have something interesting to say, the more often journalists will call you. That leads to more coverage.

By Ali Steed, founder of The Business Powerhouse