Downsizing at many media organizations means there are fewer specialists or beat reporters with expertise about a subject area or industry. Instead, there are more generalists who cover a wide variety of stories. Expect to be interviewed by someone who is not familiar with you or your industry.
That puts the burden on companies to educate the reporters as much as possible. You have to explain things to them in the same way you would talk to a friend – not dumbing it down, but explaining your business or what's going on in your industry in a conversational way.
Send them background information ahead of time. The more they understand the context, the better. You don’t want them asking questions based on something they read in Wikipedia.
That can be a detriment because reporters are scrambling for information, right now.
If they can’t reach you or find the information they want, they may post, Tweet or air something that is not correct or not substantiated, just to be first. That can hurt the company, and it contributes to the mistrust of journalists.
When I was a correspondent at CNN, every story was checked two or three times before it aired. That’s not the case now, with the proliferation of cable and digital news channels. There's a lot of pressure to get something on the air or online quickly in an intensely competitive media environment where a scoop can be measured in seconds.
Skype and video platforms such as Google Hangout mean you can interview someone anywhere in the world, at any time, in places where you could never get a news crew. That increases the opportunities for companies to get media exposure, such as having one of their experts provide commentary on a developing news story. You no longer need to go to a television studio to do that.
It’s crucial that companies understand how to use these technologies and understand the rules for doing it right.
It’s common sense, but for Skype, you need to make sure the lighting is good. Don’t have distracting signs or other items in the background. Wear solid colors, but not black or white. Don't slouch. High definition can be pretty unforgiving, so you may need to use light makeup, even for men.
The number of online news providers keeps proliferating. Traditional news outlets are expanding their digital presence. The news cycle really has become 24/7. There are more avenues than ever for companies and organizations to get their story out, and more creative ways to tell that story.
That also raises the stakes for companies and organizations, which need to keep up with the changes and understand how to best use new channels to get their story out. Do you have people who understand how to use social media to tell your story? Do you understand how to navigate this new landscape?
Bloggers and other online commentators have become influential sources of news. Some of them are very powerful. But they don’t operate under the same standards as traditional reporters doMany don’t report all sides to the story or check the facts; they just express their opinions.
Companies have to be extra careful in this situation. The best way is to do your research before deciding whether to talk to them: What kind of issues do they cover? Do they have an agenda or a bias? Are they to be trusted? Is there anything to be gained from talking to them?
If you think it’s going to be a hit piece, you can always say no.