Media Relations 101
Sarah Francomano from Fleishman Hillard, began the talk by explaining how you can tell when your company is ready for PR and describing what PR can do for your company. She then gave our startups some basic media training for them to use in the future. Shannon Sweeney from Babson’s marketing department, concluded the lunch and learn with some information about what Babson PR does and how Babson can help get our startups get their names out there.
How do you know your company is ready for Public Relations?
- When you have something that consumers can actually try and see. It’s hard for both a public relations agent and a reporter to figure out where they can push your story next. You want an immediate call to action and that often times requires your service/product to be ready to try.
- Understand your competition. “You need to look at your full competitive landscape,” says Sarah. Hone in on what your edge is and what makes your company different. Be forward thinking.
- Dedicate internal resources to manage the agency or PR person. Someone, independent of the founder, should be in charge of working with a PR agency. “As an outsider of your company, your PR representative needs constant information from you so that the agency can help you achieve your goals,” says Sarah. You need to be willing to put in resources and work, or else having a PR agent won’t be worth it.
- Have a story to tell. Know your story like the back of your hand, and know it quickly. When reporters first meet you, without doubt, they will ask you “tell me about yourself.” You should have a tightened story ready to go at any time. People naturally gravitate towards a story, especially when the ending is good—so practice yours.
- Make short and long term goals. Where do you want to be in five years? These goals should be legitimate and attainable. “I often tell my clients that the first question a reporter will ask is ‘what’s next?’ You should always shave an idea about what the next steps of your company looks like.” Most people won’t come back in 10 years to check if you actually did what you said you were going to do, so just say something realistic and different than what your competitors are doing.
- You need to be able to let go of control. Entrepreneurs especially have a hard time with this one. You have to be able to let other people help shape your company. If you can’t do this, you will never be able to see the full picture. Learn to let go of your story. Every reporter will take something different from your story, and you need to be able to let them ride with it.
So you might be ready for PR, but what exactly can PR do for your company?
Public relations is not just a media relations machine. PR can help with messaging and storytelling. Think about it this way—a PR agent is a good writer, story teller, and an outside expert who can help cut out the pointless parts of your story and hone in on what is important. Public relations does media training, strategy and planning, research and insight, social media strategy and execution, content development, event planning, and more.
Let’s say you’re not quite ready for a PR agent, but you still want some tips on navigating the press and media. Here are a few things you should do, and not do when managing the press.
- Be prepared and focused before any interview. You should know what the goal of the interview is, who you are talking to, and who their viewers or readers are. This should affect the way that you speak and the information you give. Don’t go into an interview flustered. It is always better to take a moment to breath before jumping into the interview.
- Reporters always ask as the last question of the interview, “is there anything else you would like to add?” Always answer this question and leave them with one of your key messages.
- Know five things that could really impact your business over the next month. Specifically, you should know how to accommodate to this potential change and get over these hurdles.
- Have third party endorsements on hands. We can all advocate for ourselves, but when others advocate for us is when people really start to listen. Know people who can vouch for you.
- Do not say “no comment” in response to a question during an interview. The reporter will simply try to find the answer elsewhere, so use this as a moment to bridge something positive into the situation and negate from the negative.
The Do Nots
There are a few things Sarah reminded our entrepreneurs not do when talking to the press. Here are some of them: don’t ramble, use jargon or acronyms only your company knows, go off the record, lie, repeat negative statements especially about your competitors, argue with the reporters (they are the ones writing your story), and be sarcastic. Ultimately, treat the press with respect and be passionate and excited about what you are doing. Anyone can notice when you actually enjoy the thing you’re working on, so be yourself and be confident.
For Babson Startups… Talk to Babson Marketing
Shannon Sweeney spoke about how Babson can help their students’ startups accelerate in the press and media world. The Babson Marketing Team is always open to chatting with young entrepreneurs about their stories and their businesses.
In terms of creating your own buzz for your company, Shannon recommended our entrepreneurs to reach out and find journalists. “Develop personal relationships with smaller reporters.” Tweet at them and interact with the people who are in your space. Also, create a running list of journalists who would be interested in your story. Do your research on various reporters by reading their articles!
Ultimately, the press and media are not as daunting as they might seem. By using the few tips above, you will be set to go!