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December 1999

Managing: The News Media

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

A primer for dealing with your local news media

Your phone rings. It's Savvy Reporter from your local newspaper or television station wanting information or an interview. What do you do? How do you respond? Does it really matter?

Yes, it certainly does matter how you handle the press. The news media give a public face to your business free of charge. Good publicity is priceless. Bad publicity is not only worthless, it can end up costing you and your business dearly.

Dealing with the news media can be quite manageable. If you've set up yourself or your store as the source to find answers, chances are you already know the reporter and everything will go more smoothly because of this.

How do you get to know your local news media and become known as a source for good, accurate information? Next month in this column, we'll show you some simple steps to begin your media-relations career and help promote good publicity. Meanwhile, if news reporters call before you've begun your goodwill campaign, keep reading!

Savvy Reporter Calling: Are You Ready?

1. The phone rings and you're on the spot. What do you do?

Take a deep breath and proceed slowly. Savvy Reporter may be hurried, but you must be calm and professional to find out what information is needed. Ask if there is a time later in the day or early the next day when you can call back to discuss the topic. Doing this will give you time to gather your wits as well as your information so you're not caught unprepared.

Keep in mind your reporter is most likely working on a tight deadline. You may not get the luxury of waiting a few hours or until the next morning. But most reporters can wait at least a short time for you to call back if you explain you're with a customer.

If your staff members answer the phone and you're not available, make sure they know the drill. As always, they should be polite and courteous. Direct them to get as much information as Savvy Reporter will share (when is the best time to call back and what subject the reporter has questions about, etc.). Then, as soon as possible, return the call.

2. Get prepared.

The reporter may have questions on topics you're not well-versed on. Gather information and have available any supporting literature that will add further information. Know where to send the reporter for more information with a contact name and phone numbers (see box on p. 90). Keep handy any printed material to which you can refer and then fax to the reporter at the conclusion of your call. This includes articles from trade publications, trade organizations or any other literature you might have. You might keep a media file with articles on hot topics for this purpose.

3. Call back and do the interview.

You're now prepared, but you still shouldn't be afraid to admit you're not sure of an answer. Don't panic. Know who/which organizations in the industry handle which subjects. Call the trade organization, verify the new information needed, then call Savvy Reporter again with the update. Or give the reporter the sources that may be helpful (see below).

General Media Tips

  • Be friendly and helpful. But be on your guard. Most reporters are professional, but there are those who may twist your words. Be clear and concise.
  • Stick to the point. Answer the questions asked and don't wander from the reason the reporter called unless he or she invites your additional comments.
  • Remember this is a professional forum, not a personal one. Don't get on your favorite soapbox – stay focused on the facts.
  • Use this opportunity to promote our industry. You will look professional. Refrain from personal comments about other jewelers.

By Caroline Stanley, Director of Marketing & Communications, Jewelers of America

Caroline Stanley is a third-generation jeweler working as director of marketing and communications for Jewelers of America (call 800-223-0673 for membership information.) She also is a past president of the Arkansas Jewelers Association, has worked with Platinum Guild International and won a Women's Jewelry Association Award of Excellence.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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