Why is it that so often, the companies that scream the loudest about not getting coverage in a publication are the same ones the writer or editor could not get a response from when the article was being researched?
This is not a new phenomenon.
We bring this up because it’s that wonderful time of the year again, when we celebrate the semi-annual gathering of the tribe at an Outdoor Retailer trade show, with editors and our freelancers running as fast as they can to chase trends and facts for upcoming stories in SNEWS®, the Outdoor Retailer Planning Guide powered by SNEWS, and the O.R.Daily powered by SNEWS. Of course, we run this chase-the-pre-show information race all year for different shows, including for OR Winter Market and Health & Fitness Business. But the summer OR show seems to be the hardest race we run.
Our team has already been greeted by the occasional stiff arm, the too-frequent silent treatment and the Bermuda Triangle of journalism that sucks in emails and phone messages without a trace. One freelancer working for us shared the following in complete frustration…. And this is just one poignant example in far too many our team has experienced already:
I called Company A’s headquarters, identified myself, and explained the purpose of the call.
I was told the company preferred to handle media calls via email. They asked me to write to: email@example.com (Ed. Note: Yes, we made up that email).
I asked them if I could just speak with her. They said I could not, but they assured me she would respond to my email very quickly since I was under deadline. I was also told that she was the only person at the company I could speak with.
I sent an email.
I waited until after noon the following day. When there was NO response, I sent another email.
Very quickly Ms. I-Have-No-Time-For-Media director of sales, replied that she was very busy and would respond to me when she had time.
I replied that I'd be happy to do a quick call with her if that was easier and that I was under deadline.
That was several weeks ago and our writer has yet to receive a response. He’s waited and waited. So – no surprise really -- this company will likely not be mentioned in an article that will appear in a magazine being mailed to 9,000 retailers and show attendees prior to Summer Market.
Guess what? We know what comes next since it happens many times a year to us and, we assume, numerous other media outlets too. When Company A sees the article, they are going to wish they had been mentioned. And they won’t be happy. We are willing to bet that this same company will be yelling at SNEWS shortly after publication – after they finish the witch hunt in-house -- berating us for clearly not knowing the market or for working with writers who are unprofessional or don’t know the market, etc.
For the record, this particular writer is no beginner – he’s a veteran newspaper reporter who writes frequently for major national newspapers – so the company just managed a two-fer diss. Guess who likely won’t be getting a call again if this writer is under deadline for a newspaper story for, say, the Los Angeles Times?
We get the busy part… but…
Folks, we understand you are all busy at this time of year… Heck, at any time of the year, really, busy seems to be the M.O. But no editor or reporter, no matter how good they are, can possibly write about products if they don’t know about them. And we have to get emails, press releases or, yes really, actually have live telephone conversations to get this information. SNEWS is good, but we aren’t clairvoyant.
Realize too that we journalists talk among each other, recommending good interview sources, warning off folks from others not so good. So one “I’m too busy to talk now” response could mean a very long trail of not getting into stories. We journalists, we compete but we also are brethren. We share stories about who responds quickly, who doesn’t, who is always good for a great quote, or who acts like we’re bothering them. Probably not too unlike your own water-cooler chat about journalists who are a pain in the posterior to work with. We know...we can be a difficult lot with last-minute deadlines. But in the end, know we do care about your company and its products, and we're really only trying to get your assist in writing about them accurately.
So we leave all of our readers from all industries and from all companies with these thoughts. Warning: Read them if you think you might like the media to actually talk about your company and its products:
- If you are a company executive reading this, please take the time today to tell your team that talking to the media about your company’s products and business is important if your company actually wants its name in print. If it doesn’t want any publicity or promotion then, by all means, turn off your phones and don’t answer your email when the media comes calling.
- If your company does not have an in-house PR person, somebody savvy about doing PR, or a PR agency to deal with and to filter calls from media facing deadlines, get one. This is what PR professionals know how to do. Then media folks like us know who to call and that PR person can ensure the right people are answering the right questions so your company gets key product and company mentions in the media.
- If you are a sales manager who is also saddled with the painful duty of talking to the media, first, let us say, we are sorry. That’s double duty, and we are such a difficult lot to deal with in an already too-full day, we’re sure. However, since your boss will likely yell at you once we explain to him (after your boss calls to yell at us) you were too busy to take our calls or answer our emails when we did try to reach out to you, do yourself and us a favor: Take a few minutes out of your day to talk to the media when we call. That way, we can actually write about your product and, get this, likely help you make more sales as a result!
- If you or your staff could not find the time to talk to the media when we call, or you have never even tried to reach out to the media during the year to establish a relationship so writers and editors know who you are, your subsequent complaints about lack of coverage really do sound quite hollow.
And finally, there’s this: No one in the media wants to leave out an important product or company mention from a story. Certainly sometimes that happens even in the best of circumstances due to space and editing constraints, but we don’t want to. To the media, there is simply nothing worse than finding out about a product that should have been in a story, either from an unknown company, or from a company that used the Bermuda Triangle PR method – all after a story is published. We too go through pain to think we missed something, thereby not helping our readers know all they should.
Our plea: Help us to help you – especially in the months leading up to your key trade shows. Just talk to the media. It won’t guarantee you coverage in a story, but it will guarantee you’re noticed, heard, and cared about. If you don’t get coverage this time, you may next time.
In this game, communicating regularly with us is the ticket to a strong and meaningful relationship that will result in strong and meaningful stories (for us) and strong and we hope sales-producing stories (for you).