Companies want to secure publicity to drive sales. Makes sense. The assumption though is everyone, including the media, wants to hear about how the company or product is changing the industry. That’s why CEOs and the PR folks that represent them push for setting up general deskside briefings with reporters.
Here’s the problem – the desk side briefing/get to know you phone call days are pretty much over. Unless the company or CEO has news to share, reporters don’t want to set up the interview. Don’t take it from me. See from the tweets from reporters below:
PR folks: Unless your CEO is McArthur genius-level star, I'll probably decline invite for a general chat with them that has no news hook
— (((Sean Captain))) (@seancaptain) September 21, 2017
Only John Lennon and snowflakes are unique.
— Adrían Bridgwater (@ABridgwater) July 20, 2016
Offering me the "opportunity" to interview your CEO is NOT a "story idea." It is, in fact, lazy PR.
— Matt Charney (@mattcharney) August 2, 2017
In the late 90’s, we used to call this the ham sandwich pitch. My CEO had a ham sandwich for lunch today – interested in interviewing them? Nope. Here’s why:
amazes me PR people think I want to interview a CEO w/o a reason to care about their company. I need to be able to sell to editors/readers
— SkeleTon-ya Riley (@TonyaJoRiley) May 19, 2017
Reporters don’t want to interview CEOs just because. There has to be news. Reporters are beholden to their readers/editors. That begs the question – How can you speak to the media even if you don’t have news?
Speak to trends
There are a couple ways to do this. First, use your customers as an example. Speak to their pain points, i.e. what we’re hearing from our customers is X, that’s why we offer Y. Second, use other companies as an example. Speak to what they’re getting wrong, i.e. the industry is doing X, we believe there’s a better way, that’s why we’re doing Y. Third, speak to what you’re seeing in the industry, i.e. the industry is heading in X direction, we believe it should be heading in Y.
Serve the readers to serve your company
Media outlets are responsible for securing eye balls to generate revenue. Focus less on you and your company and more on the benefit you can provide the reporter’s readers. That means reading the article’s the reporter has previously written and suggesting angles they missed or angles you anticipate in the future, i.e. I saw you covered X, there’s a little known issue Y, or Z is the next trend.
Provide perspective reporters won’t get anywhere else
Once upon a time, I represented a consulting firm that negotiated telecom and data contracts between Fortune 500 companies and the major telcos. I knew the CEO could provide valuable insight to the telcom reporter from Investor’s Business Daily. Every time I contacted the reporter though, his first question was, “Is the company public?” It wasn’t. I finally got the reporter on the phone and when he asked me why he should speak with the company, I explained that the CEO could offer a perspective he wouldn’t get from anyone else because the CEO’s company was in the middle. He could speak to the issues and trends facing Fortune 500 companies regarding their telecom and data spend and the big trends telecom companies were chasing and why. That lead to a Q&A profile story with the CEO of that company and the reporter often contacted that CEO as an expert source.
Build relationships vs. transactional one and done
If you’re CEO is positioning him or herself as an industry thought leader, the goal should be to get in the reporter’s Rolodex for the long haul. Reporters usually keep two or three trusted sources who will consistently provide thoughtful comment for stories as go to sources in their Rolodex. Remember, we want to make it as easy as possible for reporters to cover our stories, so if you make yourself available for comment and consistently offer insight no one else can, you will become the de facto source for that reporter.
If want to learn more about how I can help position you or your CEO as a thought leader/expert source for the media, please contact me.