If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or even possibly an aspiring artist, actor or musician you will quickly find that good press goes a long way to help your cause. This post is about some interesting ways I and others have incentivised the press to hook us up.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting with AOL Founder and Billionair Steve Case during his trip to Madison. He had brought with him a vidiographier to film his high profile Rise of the Rest Tour as well as a small entourage of the local press that we coving his visit. Steve was touring a number of intrapleural hotspots in Madison, one of them being 100state. It was to be a quick visit, not one of the main stops. A couple of our members spoke but one of our members, Joe Sweeney, was able to deliver a short concice speach that took almost 1/3 of the promotional clip (In case it is not obvious Joe is the guy standing next to me that opens with the quote "People Thinking Big with Small Town Hearts").
Out of all the different higher profile events and all of the other people that Steve worked with how was Joe able to find his way into such a high profile spot? It is because he knows how to deliver a solid Soundbite.
What is a soundbite? It is a short concise statement that is both catchy but at the same time helps the reporter/blogger/videographer tell the story that they are trying to tell. Remember most of the time you are talking to the press they already have a story they are trying to tell.
I learned this the hard way when I was interviewed for an artical in the Wall Street Journal. I hoped the article would paint the picture of a young Entrepreneur who had persevered through trials and tribulations and was now on the path to success. The reporters had a different story they wanted to tell. A story about a poor suffering entrepreneur that could be devastated depending on the turn out of a bill congress was about to pass.
At this point I was naive to how the press worked. I still managed to stumble through and give them enough to tell the story they wanted to. I got the exposure in the article but it was not the exposure I wanted. I learned the hard way to be more strategic in your choice of interviews.
Eventually I read Ryan Holiday's Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator which covers in detail how the massive news media machine works.
Years later after reading this book and several others I was helping launch a startup inside of one of Madison's largest most established companies when a reporter for a smaller local periodical was making their rounds at an event we were attending. The guy before me rambled for 2 or 3 minutes like I had in the past but when he got to me I quickly delivered a 2 sentence soundbite I had rehearsed before hand. The reporter seemed interested and jotted down our contact information. The next we received a phone call asking for my information so I could be quoted in the article.
Here are a couple of tips on how you can deliver better sound bites:
Know what story they are trying to tell:
I haven't asked Joe yet and I bet he would deny it but I bet knowing that the Rise of the Rest was about documenting and promoting Entrepreneurship in the midwest helped him craft that amazingly compelling sound bite. Seek first to understand what the story is they are trying to tell is. Then just help them do it with your quote.
The medium the reporter is using to report should dictate how long your sound bite is. Typically keep it short enough that they can tweet it using some abbreviations.
On the other hand I am getting interviewed for an hour long podcast later today(which is why all of this is on my mind) then you will obviously need to deliver more content in that hour than just a tweets worth. This is where I suggest you figure out how to tell a story then sum up the moral of the story in a single sentence.
This is important because that one sentence will be what they use to promote the segment and it will be what other's will use to quote you if the story starts to spread throughout the media.
You may tell a really great and viral story but don't leave them that short concise sound bite to sum it up then it is really hard for them to clip together parts of your original full length story to make their own sound bite to use to bait in the masses.
Remember what the focus of the story is:
When talking to reporters you or your product are not the focus of the story. You are just characters and props in story. If you try and shoehorn yourself in there it will only make things awkward.
If it does make sense to namedrop your product or company then do it. If I had delivered a soundbite to the Wall Street Journal that started with "When we were starting Schematical it was tough because I didn't have health insurance...." then I might have managed to get the company name in the story.
Make sure the story they are trying to tell is the story you want to be in:
I know they say there is no such thing as bad press. In ways I agree but there is Smart Press like what Joe did, and dumb press like how I stumbled through the Wall Street Journal interview. I strongly suggest thinking things through before jumping in to an interview.
Reporters are always trying to tell a story, understand what that story is and help them tell their story by giving them a sound byte they can use.
Hopefully this helps some of you when it comes to working with the media. As always I am eager for your comments and feedback.
PS: For my reporter friends out there:
I hope I am not painting a bad picture. Ideally entrepreneurs that read this will now give you better more concise quotes that help you create better content for your readers.