Monday, March 31, 2008

Brass Tack #13. Give them contact details that actually work.

This is one of those ‘brass tack’ pieces of advice that should be obvious. But it is surprising how often a potentially good news story falls at this particular hurdle.

If your press pack makes the right impression and your journalist decides to run with the story, they may well wish to contact you. Even if the news release is comprehensive, there may be a number of questions they will want to ask, if only to provide them with a unique angle. The journalist may simply be looking for reassurance that the story is still viable, that there haven’t been any new developments – and that you are who you say you are.

Therefore, it is vital that your news release offers good channels of communication between the journalist and yourself. The first thing an interested journalist is likely to do is pick up the phone. So (obvious point) include a phone number. It should also be obvious to include a phone number of someone who knows about the story.

Here are some more points about the phone number that should also be self-evident:

  • Who will answer when the phone rings? Are they qualified to talk to the media on your behalf? Can they respond to journalists’ requests for interviews, photo-calls or background information? Are they even aware that their name and number has been provided to the media?
  • If it’s a mobile number, can you rely on the phone being switched on, able to pick up a signal or be answered in circumstances in which a clear conversation can take place? If the answer to any of these is no, you can increase the journalist’s chances of successfully following up the story by providing a choice of numbers to call.
  • Will the caller end up with a voicemail message? If so, will you actually pick it up and call back, preferably while the story is still of interest?
  • Is this an office-hours only number? Don’t assume the journalist only works 9 to 5, especially if he or she is freelance.
  • Will the caller know who they’re talking to? Any number should be supplied with a name (preferable a protagonist in the story, such as a person who has been quoted) and position.

The follow-up phone call by the journalist is proof that your story has sparked an interest. It’s also an opportunity to turn one of many news items into the one that gets special treatment. Human contact between a PRO and a journalist is always preferable to a piece of paper, no matter how well-written the press release may be.

Many websites and textbooks on media relations techniques make the point that it should be you, the sender of the press pack, who makes the follow-up phone call. This puts more pressure on the journalist to do something with your story and again adds that human touch to the ‘routine’ news release. Not everyone agrees with this tactic and anyway, the chances are that you won’t reach the person you want to speak to and will end up leaving a message – so all the above advice about good contact details applies.

While we’re on the topic of contact details that actually work – never give email addresses that bounce or web site addresses that don’t actually take you to any website. More obvious points? Hmm - you’d think so.

Filed under:
media relations       press release       journalists      follow-up calls       contact information

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