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Top five media mistakes… and how not to make them

Dealing successfully with the media is not a skill that comes easily to most people. As a sector and profession, the media is unique and operates under its own set of rules and conventions.

These conventions can seem incomprehensible initially, but once you get your head around the dos and don’ts, the media becomes less of a mystery and can be an extremely powerful way to leverage your personal or business brand.

Here’s the top five common mistakes I see people make when they first engage with media:

  1. Not knowing the audience or platform

If you’re targeting a platform or outlet you want to appear in, make sure you’ve done your research. Watch or listen to the breakfast show and get a feel for the tone, style and types of stories they cover. Read the newspaper you’re pitching an op-ed to – will your point of view or opinion suit their readers?  Consuming the media you wish to be part of is one of the keys to success, but it also means devoting some time and energy on your part.

  1. Lack of preparation

Unless you’re a seasoned media performer, don’t try to wing a media engagement. Media is by nature unpredictable and because it’s often a live format, you don’t get a second crack at it. If there are key points or statistics you need to learn, do that, but don’t rehearse answers word for word as you’ll sound like a robot. If you’re nervous about an appearance, especially for radio or TV, get someone to run through potential questions with you so you can practice natural responses.

  1. Being uncontactable or difficult to communicate with

One of the downsides to the 24/7 news cycle is that the media works at a frenetic pace. Producers and reporters are constantly on deadline, so being quick to respond to calls, texts and emails and being easy to deal with, will make you a trusted and valuable asset. Never break the golden rule of media outreach – which is pitching a story or sending a media release and then being out of contact or unavailable. It’s the surest way to get the media offside.    

  1. Never play the media off against each other

Media are competitive and they’re constantly competing against each other for eyeballs and ears, so it pays to be up front in your dealings with them. Never pitch a story exclusively, unless you’re serious about the offer, and don’t pitch an exclusive story if it’s not – it’s bound to end in tears. If you’ve already had coverage or appeared in other media on an issue or story and you’re asked about it, be honest.

  1. Not leveraging your media assets

Don’t underestimate the value of repurposing or leveraging earned media on your own platforms.  It’s one thing to do media, but often the real benefits can flow from how you use it. Radio audio can be easily turned into YouTube content – newspaper stories can be captured digitally and then posted on social media such as LinkedIn, Instagram or your website. Make sure you have a plan and the knowhow to leverage media to your best advantage – it’s a worthwhile investment.

Follow these golden rules and you’ll become a trusted media asset who gains respect and credibility by being knowledgeable, available, prepared and speaking directly to the target audience.

And as far as media engagement goes, it doesn’t get better than that.

By John Solvander, Director of Media Engagement, Media Stable.

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