If you buy the old saw “all press is good press”, you’ve not been in the press lately.
Bad press? Well, let’s first fully recognize people are press: we are what we write in this case. So bad press equals poorly recorded and inaccurate information. Incomplete, rambling with no direction, and poor grammar (did I get that right?). Sloppiness – maybe. Uneducated or untrained – certainly seems that way.
The first time I realized that all press was not created equal was about 6 years ago. A local reporter called me and asked to meet so they could write a brief piece about my business. GREAT!, me thought. So off I went at the appointed time to the appointed place to meet the appointed reporter. I even had the forethought to bring a fact sheet along. Some things are facts so I figured, may as well simply print that out as a reference for some of the most basic info (date of business start, website, and the like).
Walking away from that I felt elated – I’d just been invited to be interviewed. I must be on my way, right?! Eager I was for the article to come out – especially since a picture was supposed to be included.
Perhaps. Yet the piece this reporter published had some egregious and totally inexcusable errors. For one, the name of my website was wrong. Yes, that was on the fact sheet. And it was wrong. That’s a pretty important piece to flub up and there it was, in black and white quite literally. In this day and age, a website is your primary point of findability. The modern Yellow Pages of days past (which I still reference by the way).
Printing corrections, retraction, and other “whoops!” kind of snippets never recover the damage done on a first run of a regular publication. I’m not discounting or totally negating this reporters worth. What I am calling out is quality and attention to detail for accuracy, supervision, fact checking and rechecking with the subject to make sure.
What I’m grateful for was it was early enough in the concept of the business and the paper, while a widely read local in a town of 25K+, wasn’t on a national scale that would cause permanent confusion or damage. Nonetheless I was chagrined, slightly mad and turned off. How do you get facts given to you on a sheet of paper wrong?!
So when someone calls asking for information, from the press and media professional arena, and says “It’ll be good press”, I’m more cautious. I do my homework, I ask for a few things in return from my time and input, and I do so unapologetically. When we both have skin in the game, I’m much more inclined to participate.
Think about it: You’re helping the press and media make their living by providing insight, topical information and words that they can use to make their living. I ask them to commit to sending me a hard copy (if applicable), a link out so I can share it, and – most importantly – before it goes to press, I often ask to review the piece for accuracy. I’ve stuck to my promise that I’m not going to edit – I feel strongly though about editing for facts. Those journalists who do circle back, to check in for accuracy, are comfortable with the level of their work and with changes I request. Those are the people I want to be available for and they know it since I tell them as much.
If it’s truly ‘good’ press, I “get” to give my time with no immediate tangible return. Hence I need to be particular to who gets the oh-so-valuable thing we chart as time. No getting it back, and there’s no recouping a bad experience. All you can do is move on.
The journalists I request this of, whether pros or learning students, almost always follow-up when I ask for these things. The ones that balk, well – I balk back. My time and input is just as valuable as the effort they’re putting forth for the piece that they get paid for. We both stand to gain when we work together; and I stand to loose much more than them with poorly executed press.
Words are everywhere and thrown about casually sometimes. One word can change an entire meaning, thrust, theme, idea, and can certainly impede or accelerate progress. They are powerful, weighty, cheap, ever-changing, and part of our societies the globe over.
It’s a thrill to me to get a request for interviews and I think it always will be. Someone cares about what we’re doing, if only to create some content for their immediate needs. And if they have more time than crunch, I’m also much more inclined to be available. Like a good friend and colleague once advised, I do what fits with my schedule. And to add a favorite quote, I’d offer “Your urgency does not create my emergency.”
It’s time to shift the press and media paradigm. I started a while ago. Care to join me?