On my media ‘savviness’ scale they range from those who completely ‘get’ the value of media exposure and are always up for an interview, to those who miss out because they don’t get it at all.
It has nothing to do with company size, how long it’s been around, or how busy the owner is. Some entrepreneurs have it, and some haven’t, but could do something about it.
The best have set the bar high. A media request to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, one of America’s biggest and best online retail companies immediately mobilised the comms team, the PR company and his PA into action. But before I heard back from any of them, I’d had a personal reply from the man himself, and it was a ‘yes’.
Virgin’s media team are hot; sending word out to the boss on Necker Island who answered my interview questions the same day.
At the other end of the scale are the business owners who claim to be media savvy, but in reality are wholly uneasy about dealing with the press, and I can recall many occasions when initial enthusiasm turns to wariness and eventually evasiveness, leaving me on deadline and in the lurch.
Not everyone has the luxury of a crack communications team that can leap into action when a journalist calls, but I know a lot of busy entrepreneurs who handle their own media enquiries amazingly well and could teach other business owners a thing or two.
They respond to emails or direct messages with a straight 'yes' or 'no', they understand what a deadline is, and if something crops up that means they can’t help, they let me know in plenty of time and we reschedule, because they aren’t going to pass on a good media opportunity.
I have compiled my own Little Black Book of local, national and international business contacts who I know I can count on. And because I ensure the piece I’m writing is relevant in some way to their business, they nearly always come back with the reply ‘We’d love to’.
You might not have the media and public relations resources of Zappos or Virgin, but if you don’t want to lose out in the media stakes, here are four tips for making your business more media savvy...
Stay on the social media radar - if your business isn’t already using social media, what are you waiting for? Last month I ‘met’ several business owners through Twitter and LinkedIn who became case studies in features I was writing. And should further opportunities in other features and publications arise, I’ll be contacting them again.
Blog your news – small businesses are recognising the value of producing a regular blog; it keeps current customers engaged and attracts the interest of new ones. The best blogs, full of interesting news about the business, can be a source of fresh story ideas for journalists whole want to get in touch with you to find out more.
Sharpen your image – as any editor will tell you, it’s the pictures that first grab the reader’s attention and a good interview is becomes all the more interesting when there’s a nice shot of the subject to go with it. Conversely, not having one can kibosh the story.
Be contactable - and include a contact telephone number on your website. There is nothing worse than being on a tight deadline, finding the company you are looking for, then discovering that the only means of getting in touch is through a contact form. I don’t know who picks that up, or whether they’ll pass it on to the relevant spokesperson, and if I'm on deadline, I won’t have time to wait to find out.