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Top 10 Media Relations Tips—and More

Learn what Million Dollar Round Table members already know about shining in print, and on radio and TV.

By Brad Elman

It takes considerable time and effort to develop solid media relationships. In turn, good media relationships will help you get your name recognized, and people will think well of you and what you do because you have—and deserve—a favorable reputation. The following is general etiquette for building good media relationships:

  1. Know your media. Become familiar with the columns in your local newspapers and periodicals, and the news and talk programs on TV and radio.
  2. Meet deadlines. Every reporter has a deadline to meet, so be aware of them and do your best to accommodate the reporter’s request in a timely manner. They will appreciate it and remember your cooperation when the next opportunity develops.
  3. Be helpful. Help the reporter as much as you can. The more facts and statistics you provide the better, since they often don’t have time to do all the research themselves. Feel free to ask questions or offer any information they might need.
  4. Be accessible. As you begin working with local reporters, tell them you are available if they need help with the story. Ideally, you want to be a resource the next time they work on an insurance-related article.
  5. Make incoming media calls a priority. A reporter’s call should be returned within the hour, even just to let them know you received the call. Alert your team or office to this priority.
  6. Keep promises. If you ever give a newspaper exclusive rights to publish your news, stick to your word. If you promised to get back to a reporter, follow through. You will quickly lose credibility with the news media if you forget about promises.
  7. Be a gracious host. When a reporter arrives at your home or office, meet and greet them. Cater to their needs; give them a quick overview of your business; offer interview or photo opportunities and see if they have questions.
  8. Don’t get angry. The resulting story may not be exactly what you had hoped for. Call and correct any inaccurate information and clarify confusing points without getting angry. Even if the story is not reprinted, the corrected information will go into their files.
  9. Don’t ask to see the story before it goes to print. Reporters are not receptive to requests for editorial approval, but an editor or researcher might call you to double-check facts.
  10. Always be courteous, honest and accurate.

Television interview tips
Television is one of the most powerful communications tools. Because it is a visual medium in a visual society, TV has its own set of rules. You’ll be more effective if you know the format of the program and what stories have recently aired, so watch the show for a few days prior to your appearance. To use TV effectively, keep the following in mind when you are being interviewed:

  1. Wear a dark suit and light colored shirt; this looks best through the camera lens. Avoid patterns and bright colors; they tend to distort your appearance.
  2. Avoid dark glasses and thick, dark frames.
  3. Sit or stand straight and look at the reporter, not at the camera and not at the floor. Keep your voice at a normal speaking level; if you are not being heard, you’ll be alerted.
  4. Don't waste response time by repeating the reporter’s questions.

Print interview tips
The key to a successful print interview is to maintain your focus. Prepare, practice and remember the messages you want to get across. Always remember what you are there to accomplish. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your interview:

  1. Ask the reporter for information that will help you prepare for the interview. What type of story is being written? What is the angle? Are others being interviewed for the same story? What is the reporter’s deadline? What is the reporter’s background?
  2. Most reporters have anywhere from 15 minutes to five days to gather information and write an article. If it is not a breaking news story, the reporter may have more time to complete the assignment. Don’t hesitate to ask the reporter when the story must be filed. And, don’t be afraid to tell a reporter that you would like time to assure accuracy and precision in your information.
  3. Know what you want to say and keep your responses brief and direct. Conduct background research on the topic and be prepared for unexpected and difficult questions.

Radio interview tips
A tape recorder and a microphone are a radio reporter’s main tools. If the interview is live, your microphone is the only thing between your voice and the public’s ear. Radio is a fast medium, so keep your answers short. Here are a few other things to remember:

  1. If you’re on a radio spot, open with a grabber to capture the listeners’ attention.
  2. Always be conversational and quotable, but be careful.
  3. Try to be smooth from beginning to end. Don’t say “um” or pause for too long.
  4. Excite the listeners with vivid words and interesting phrases.

For more tips on cultivating media relationships and getting your name in print, read Your Brand Identity, also by Brad Elman.

This is an excerpt from a much longer speech given at the 2004 MDRT annual meeting. Used with permission from MDRT. All rights reserved. For more information, go to www.mdrt.org.

Brad Elman, CLU, a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual, is a 12-year member of MDRT, with three Court of the Table qualifications, and a member of NAIFA-Silicon Valley (Calif.). You can contact him at 408-535-5747.


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