Think you're savvy about what interests, bores or annoys media outlets you're wooing for positive coverage of your firm or clients? Here's a list of 10 mistakes firms often make when trying to woo the press.

  1. Assuming that what you view as news is actually newsworthy.
    Don't try to get press coverage for something unless it's interesting, educational, unique or entertaining.
  2. Not understanding the different needs of different media.
    What works well for radio and TV won't necessarily translate to the printed page. And what piques the interest of a trade publication may elicit yawns from a mainstream business magazine. Know your audience and tailor your pitches to each medium.
  3. Writing long, complicated or error-filled press releases.
    Write with flair, be concise and always include the five W's (and one "H") in every release: who, what, where, when, why, and how.
  4. Sending press releases to the wrong contact and/or spelling their name wrong.
    Accuracy is a journalist's daily goal. Spend the time to spell their name correctly and make sure they're the best person to contact, and you'll have a leg up on the competition.
  5. Not assigning a firm spokesperson, or hobbling the spokesperson's ability to speak.
    Reporters like knowing who to turn to when news breaks, and that this person is free to talk to them -- candidly and authoritatively. "No comment" is only a good response if you want to look like you're hiding something and never want the reporter to call you again.
  6. Speaking densely or with forked tongue.
    Reporters are looking for lively, colorful quotes. Learn to speak in metaphors, enhance your authority by backing up statements with facts, dates or statistics, stay away from jargon, and never, ever lie. There's a Woodward & Bernstein in every reporter's heart and if you're caught in a lie, you will regret it -- in print.
  7. Not respecting the reporter's deadlines.
    Reporters live by tight deadlines and if you don't get back to them, you can be sure someone else (possibly a competitor) will. Always return phone calls as soon as possible, especially during a crisis. Reporters will often quote the first person who returns their calls and a quick response will help you forge a better relationship.
  8. Treating reporters with arrogance or disrespect.
    It's a reporter's job to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Controversy and drama sell newspapers, so don't take it personally if they appear confrontational, and don't dismiss them if they don't immediately grasp the issues. And don't sound like a commercial -- any self-serving quotes will be deleted from their stories and will make them think twice about calling you next time.
  9. Not taking the time and the energy to get to know the reporters covering your beat.
    Build relationships with reporters with the same care and professionalism you extend to clients. Young reporters especially are often thrown on a beat with little or no knowledge about what you do. Use this as an opportunity to be their teacher and mentor, and you’ll be repaid with free coverage down the road. That 22-year-old writer may one day end up as an editor at The Wall Street Journal.
  10. Underestimating the media's power.

How you and your firm are viewed by clients and prospects can be greatly affected by the media coverage you receive. Choose your words with care -- they could come back to haunt you. Remember, everything you say is on the record and will be stored in Lexis-Nexis for eternity.

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