Welcome to my B2BMediaTraining blog some small thoughts on life, the universe and dealing with the press from someone who crossed over from practitioner to teacher. The following selection of short articles provides an off-beat (and unashamedly tongue-in-cheek) insight into the many different aspects of the media, along with hints and tips for better communication and an understanding into what gets journalists reaching for their pens, tablets or smartphones to cover your story...
We’ve all come across them, the individuals or companies who don’t follow the herd, who aren’t thinking what you’re thinking, who are always heading in another direction. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether they have a serious point to make, and one that’s worth paying attention to, or are just doing it for effect.
Regardless of how you feel about them, there’s no denying they tend to think ‘differently’ from everyone else. And that can make them attractive to the media. Let’s face it, we all suffer from story fatigue and start to lose interest when everyone in the media runs the same story. It’s at that point editors usually ask: ‘Can’t we get a new angle on this?’
Enter the challengers, disrupters and contrarians. If you’re looking for someone to confront current thinking and rattle the status quo cage who better to talk to?
I’ve yet to meet a journalist who liked having their ‘knowledge’ questioned. Nor do they enjoy being told ‘You’ve missed the whole point of the story.’ It makes them wonder if they’ve overlooked another previously hidden narrative.
No journalist wants to admit they’ve been barking up the wrong tree. And by challenging a previously accepted storyline the challengers, disrupters and contrarians make the press think again.
Of course, if you are planning to rock the media’s boat you’d better have something solid to back-up your challenge—like an independent survey, research data, official stats, or customer experiences. In short, not ‘spin’.
Moreover, when it comes to engaging with the press the best disrupters, challengers and contrarians aren’t the ‘shouty’ ones—they’re the ones who make genuinely-interesting ‘left field’ points, calmly and with authority, and with a convincing and above-all-else believable narrative.
So can you make a journalist think twice? It’s not unusual for them to approach an interview with a preconceived idea of what the story is all about, and where it sits. They may even have the headline already written in their heads… But is that where the story really is from your perspective? Have they actually got it right? And can you show them where they’ve missed the point—and prove it? If so, you’re more likely to get them to reconsider their position and report yours.
Just remember in your desire to provide that alternative narrative it’s easy to forget the first rule of contrarianism. Namely, if you’re going to tell a journalist ‘That’s not the world as we see it’ you’d better convince them you not only know more than they do but have facts that prove it. If you can do that then you could generate fresh media coverage for yourself when everyone else thought the story was yesterday’s news…
In every one of my media training courses I ask trainees: “When you’re preparing for a press encounter, what’s the very-first go-to source of information you should be looking at to help you create your messages?” There’s often a marked silence, while they desperately think of an answer.
So what is this wonderful source of inspiration that senior managers should reach for ahead of any interview with a journalist? It’s a lot closer to hand than you might think.
Once a year, large corporations create an annual report, usually available as a PDF on the company website and as a glossy publication. Sadly, all-too-often it ends-up unread in a dark drawer…or the digital equivalent. Yet look inside any major company report and you’ll find it a fantastic repository of facts, figures and commentary that can help you deliver a strong narrative to the media. Need to prove you’ve increased production? Or boosted profitability? It’s all in there, and not just facts and figures.
Annual reports also often contain statements from a chairman or CEO confirming corporate strategies, onward business focus, core messages, market conditions and future commitments. They’re a veritable gold mine.
Moreover, the information within them will have been approved (or should have been!) by the corporate communications team, as well as the accountants and auditors. So it’s ‘safe’ to refer to.
But there’s an even more important reason why you should read it—because a journalist can too. It’s the quickest way to get valuable ‘background’ on a business ahead of an interview. That’s not all they’ll read either. Your quarterly results, investor statements, press releases, website, social media pages. In fact, anything you’ve recently put into the public domain they could ask you about. So you need to absorb it before they do. After all, you wouldn’t want them knowing more about your business than you do…would you?
But how can you make all that information work for you? The answer is to create a ‘Knowledge Box’, a handy place for all the recently published corporate material your business has put out which you can refer to and use whenever you need to create messages ahead of an encounter with the press. It can be in a folder within the company’s intranet, or even a simple box-file with hard-copy literature.
Only don’t keep it to yourself. Share the knowledge amongst your colleagues and they could well have useful business information you were unaware of that you can use the next time you talk to a journalist. And don’t just restrict it to corporate information. Put in business surveys, media articles, Government reports, anything that can help establish you amongst the press as a ‘thought leader’ in your market sector.
Better still task someone in your organisation to be the official keeper of that knowledge box—someone who’ll keep it regularly up-dated and encourage everyone to contribute to it too. But whatever you put in it, the very first thing should be the annual report. Just make sure you read it first…