This informal CPD article How accessible are you? was provided by Brian Weatherley at B2B Media Training, an award-winning trade journalist, video presenter, business-to-business magazine editor and media trainer. How easy is it for a journalist to talk to you or your company…especially if they’ve never spoken to you before? Who in your organization is the best person to kick-start a conversation with the media, and how far do they go out of their way to be accessible?
Any journalist looking to get a quick heads-up on your business will inevitably go to your website, as it’s by far the most convenient starting point when conducting research. Assuming they like what they see, and want to find out more, they’ll probably hit the ‘contact us’ button on your home page. Then what do they find? A direct landline number for your switchboard? A dedicated name and number for ‘media-enquiries’? Or do they simply get an anonymous e-mail link for enquiries and a ‘I am not a robot’ box to tick? Not exactly ‘user-friendly’. And how long does it take before someone bothers to reply―assuming the journalist hasn’t already lost interest and moved on?
Your website is the World’s window to your business, so why pull the blinds down and make it hard for the Fourth Estate to interact with you? Of course, you may not like the idea of journalists ringing you up out of the blue. You may also prefer to only talk to the media when it suits you. If that’s your attitude, don’t be surprised if a rival starts getting all the attention simply because they made themselves more available when the press came calling.
If you think the only time a journalist wants to call you is to ask awkward questions, you’re rather missing the point of press relationships. They could just as easily be calling to find out more about a successful business deal, new contract or project, or a recent major product launch. In short, they could be looking for some good news that could be read, heard, or seen by potential customers or indeed anyone else. Then again, they might want some ‘Thought Leadership’ from you on what’s happening in your market, the trends in your business, or the effect of forthcoming legislation on your industry. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be a Thought Leader if you’re hard to reach.
A journalist working to a tight deadline won’t warm to an organization whose default position on press enquiries is an answerphone message that repeatedly states: ‘The person you’re calling isn’t available right now, please leave a message and we’ll deal with it on our return…’ And then when you do, they don’t. As a former journalist I always appreciated being told up-front ‘Sorry, we can’t help you with this matter’ rather than waste time waiting for a promised call-back that never came.
An organization or business that goes out of its way to be easily accessible to the media, via as many routes as possible, and responds quickly to press enquiries will stand a much better chance of getting coverage than one that erects barriers to good communication. Which one are you?
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