What I Learned from some Top Notch Reporters and Editors…

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I recently attended a fantastic Association for Accounting Marketing panel discussion entitled “The Changing Face of Business News.” Panelists included some pretty high-profile folks, including business editors and writers from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle, WABE (Atlanta NPR affiliate) and Thompson Reuters. They talked about ways that professional services firms can get more press coverage, and tips on how you are more likely to get noticed and quoted by their respective mediums.

  • Know to whom you are pitching: Make sure whatever information you are sending will be interesting to the readers/listeners of that medium, and also customize it as much as possible. Generic press releases rarely get covered, or even read, but busy reporters. But if you present an interesting angle or unique viewpoint, or better yet tie it to some current event, you are more likely to get noticed.
  • Who Cares? Before sending any information to a reporter, always ask yourself if this is newsworthy outside of your firm and industry. I’m sure you are excited about the accounting award you recently won, but the public at large really doesn’t care. It’s great for your internal firm newsletter, and may work for an industry-specific publication, but outside of that, no one is interested.
  • Give details on what your partners can discuss: It’s not uncommon for marketers to send reporters a list of their partners with a note that they would be a great source for quotes on “financial issues.” Here’s the problem, there are hundreds of others that want to be quoted as well. To really make your list stand out from the rest, include details about what your partners can discuss, like John Smith can speak to the impact that IFRS will have on mid-sized businesses in Atlanta. The more detail you can provide the more likely you are to get the call when they are looking for expert commentary.
  • Don’t try to manage the reporters. Marketing professionals within professional services firms are usually the point of contact for press, but they are often their own worst enemy too. If a reporter wants to talk to a partner, set it up and step aside. If you are too involved and make the interaction difficult for the reporter, they will move on to the next source.
  • Make sure your partners are trained to talk to reporters. To the point above, many marketing professionals want to be on the calls with reporters to make sure their partners don’t say something stupid, and the stories of this happening abound. It’s your job to make sure they know what they can and can’t say to a reporter, and to know that NOTHING is off the record. If it’s not something you want to say to everyone in Atlanta, for Pete’s sake, don’t say it to a reporter, even jokingly.
  • Respond quickly. If a reporter contacts you for input on a story, just assume they are under a tight deadline, and need to talk to you right away. If you want to be a part of the story, and others down the road, call them back immediately. If they can’t get you, they’ll move on to the next source, so a quick response is vital.
  • NEVER ask to see a story before it prints. I know, you want to make sure your quotes are accurate, and maybe you’ve been burned in the past, but it is considered rude and insulting to ask to see the story before it goes to print. You are questioning the integrity of the reporter and micromanaging a relationship where you are not the person in power. Just don’t do it.
  • If they can’t work with you, they’ll work around you. This may sound like a threat, but remember the first job of any reporter is to get the story, not to worry about your business or reputation. If you don’t contribute to the story when called, they will find others who will, and their next call could be to your biggest competitor.

All in all, there are great opportunities for professional services providers and reporters to work together. But you have to remember the rules of the road if you want to be a part of the process.

What do you think? What experiences have you had, positive and negative, that you’d like to add? I’d love your feedback and thoughts.

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