We’ve delved into writing better press releases, discussed PR strategy and talked about what to do when journalists seem to have an agenda. But what we haven’t yet dissected is what to do if you actually land interview requests or even interviews themselves, and your quotes don’t actually make it into a written piece. Sometimes these circumstances are out of the writer’s control, and sometimes they simply select a source that’s more suitable for their piece. While there are never any guarantees, there are some key mistakes you can avoid to increase the odds that you’ll get the media play you’re looking for.
Before the interview
Don’t treat media like the enemy.
Would you be dying to get ahold of someone who thinks you’re out to get them? Unless you’re the subject of a recent media scandal and are understandably on edge, treating a journalist like they’re secretly plotting to steal your material or waste your time is pretty insulting. Playing hard to get is best reserved for athletes and celebrities and if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re not as highly in demand as them. Even if a journalist has quoted a competitor and you’re feeling bitter, you may want to take some deep breathes. As Derek Sivers wisely said, resist the urge to punish everyone for one person’s mistake.
Make sure your website is professional–or at least target appropriately.
If your website looks like it was built in the 1990s and you still use Wordle, you may wish to invest in an upgrade. And if you can help but put content on it some people might find inappropriate, consider targeting sites with similar content.
It’s shifting with the world of blogging, but many journalists will only conduct interviews by phone and some are on tight deadlines. (One day I had to track down nine sources.) Taking days to respond and prolonging the process often makes it too difficult for buys writers to follow up. For extra credit, using services such as HARO (or my personal favorites, Source Sleuth and BiteSize PR) can help writers who are trying to find you.
During the interview
Say interesting things.
If a journalist is quoting a competitor instead of you, take a look at the content of what they said compared to what you had to offer. It’s very possible that the person they ended up using was more compelling, offered snappier soundbites, or simply came across more professionally. Media is a meritocracy, and journalists have an obligation to their editors and readers, not to their sources. Luckily, interview skills are all areas you can develop, just like you can improve your interview skills to land a job or a client.
After the interview
Be aware that some circumstances are out of writers’ control.
Sometimes posts get held, due to breaking news or changes in staff or a variety of other reasons that are too complicated to explain. Writers don’t always even know when a post is scheduled or what is happening with it. I always try to be diligent with follow-ups, but don’t have much recourse if somebody does not get back to me. Many journalists are the same way. For my part, I try to always send thank-you notes to sources, follow up to let them know the status of an article, and promote the piece on Twitter and Facebook (using their social media handles, if possible), but sometimes posts get held for longer than I would like. I definitely remember sources who are understanding and the ones who throw tantrums (and yes, we do discuss you with other journalists, for better or worse.) A little patience can go a long way.
If you’ve got questions about how media works or how to hone your own strategy, ask away.