Let's begin with some candid, "hard love" and a reality check when it comes to media relations:
A) Reporters aren’t on your time, they’re on deadline.
B) There is no “stop the presses," not for you and rarely for anyone else.
C) And yes, the show, program, publication, etc. will go on without you.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let’s go over why it’s so important to be available for those media calls and a few things to think about before that phone rings or your inbox is highlighted with ‘new mail.’
It is not personal
Perhaps you submitted a press release or information regarding your new line to the reporter weeks or maybe even months ago, and s/he is just now getting back to you. (The nerve!) This isn’t like dating and you do not want to play cool. Find yourself a quiet area conducive to doing business and return the phone call or e-mail as soon as possible. Sometimes reporters/writers are not able to get to your story right away because they have other stories slotted for their publication or segment in advance. Maybe they recently published a similar story and since they’re familiar with their readers, they know that they’ll need to wait awhile before writing your story, highlighting your collection, etc. Or maybe, just maybe, they deleted your press release and in the scramble to locate a story they’ve decided to reach out to you. Sigh...perhaps the latter isn’t the most flattering way to be “discovered” but there was something there and now the writer is reaching out to you. S/he wants to interview you…take it! And just in case you’re ultra sensitive about the possibility of them deleting your e-mail or press release without reading it – just keep in mind that reporters/writers/editors receive hundreds of e-mails every day. Take your busiest day of e-mails, don’t check it for two days, then multiply it by 20, and then add an additional 50 that you didn’t get to from the days prior. That’s how many e-mails some reporters/writers/editors receive! It’s not personal. (Unless, of course, you’ve slammed them incessantly with press releases, sent them a virus, or sent them files they did not request that have jammed up their inbox. Well, then…it’s personal.)
While you are fabulous and on your way, please, leave the diva at the door
Reporters are on deadline and sometimes that four hours you decided to wait around playing hard to get is going to cost you a feature. When the story calls for someone with your skill sets, the reporter may only have a limited amount of time to wait for a return call from you. After awhile they may opt to shift their story and dismiss a quote from you or they may start to research someone else equally fabulous (and responsive). Don’t miss your opportunity and do make yourself available for those phone calls and e-mails. That’s not to say that you wait around all day, but don’t let the reporter calls or e-mails be the ones you decide to “get to later.”
You never know what the reporter is going to ask, but think of key points you may want to discuss or highlight during your conversation. Sometimes it’s easy to forget something important that you might want to share, so take down a few notes to refer back to when you return the call. If you tend to ramble on and on and on, make sure it’s related to the topic and not what you had for lunch. If you’re pitching to the media, you should be doing some mock interviews to get yourself prepared if and when a writer/reporter does call you.
Remember to be gracious
A thank you note or e-mail goes a long way. Even if your publicist sends a ‘thank you’ – it won’t hurt for you to send one, too. Reporters and writers work hard to dig up stories and provide interesting content for their readers. People often underestimate the value of a well-written piece. If a major corporation is willing to pay $15K for a half page ad in a publication or that much for a :30 second commercial, and a reporter writes a full page story about you and your latest designer collection…need I say more?
When press coverage comes knocking at your door, make sure that you are ready and available for the opportunity. Being responsive, prepared and gracious will always give you that extra edge!