If you’ve seen the movie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” you may remember Kate Hudson coming up with one outrageous dating faux pas after another to make Matthew McConaughey dump her as part of an experiment for her advice column.
Her task was to break up the relationship in 10 days and write about it. But no matter how hard she tried, he wouldn’t let go because, unbeknown to her, he made a bet with friends that she will fall in love with him in the same 10 days.
When you’re trying to get a reporter to cover your story, it’s a little bit like dating. But take my word for it, it doesn’t take 10 days to forever lose your chance at that date.
Here are a few things you can do if you’re really, desperately do not want that story in print (or in cyberspace).
–Do not show up, then do not call to apologize. This actually happened to me twice and one of those time I drove 45 minutes each way for the interview.
Stuff happens, things come up, people forget. It’s no doubt embarrassing to call back if you’ve missed the appointment. Reporters are human too and with a sincere apology, you’ll be back in the dating game. But pretend it never happened, and you can kiss any future coverage good-bye. Nobody likes to have their time wasted.
-Pitch a story and then call back after the interview and ask for it to be held indefinitely. Reporters have compassion too and if you have a solid reason, he or she will likely cooperate if you ask for a hold and have a good reason. Needless to say, if you leave things in limbo and the reporter guessing when you’ll be ready, your story will likely not see the light of day when you finally are.
-Pitch a story then do not give the reporter access to the key people who need to be interviewed. After all, you’re the one who called and reporters get pitches every day. If you asked for a story about your business or project, you need to be prepared to open the door. If you’re not, just send a press release and call it a night.
–Throw a fit if your story didn’t run when you expected, or you weren’t included in a story that interviewed your competitors instead.
My editor once received an extremely irate email from a shop owner who was upset about only being mentioned in a story when similar shops had more detailed information. This person copied several dozen people and blasted the publication and the editors. Although the email was not sent to me directly nor did it mention me as the writer, I have never called the owner back for another interview or quote, nor did I go back to the business, which I loved and patronized.
Bottom line, free publicity is free publicity, whether you get interviewed or mentioned in passing. Is your aggravation worth burning the bridge?
-Pitch the same unique angle or new idea to several competitors. If you have an event or a new business, it’s one thing, but if you are trying to get your story out in all places possible by casting a wide net, what you’ll get is irritated reporters when they see the same story they just finished running in the competing paper.
Choose your top publication first and if you get turned down, move on, or at least mention that you are pitching the same story to the others. The reporter may not care about the competition but giving that notice is simple courtesy and it will earn you trust in the future.
-Spam the reporter with press releases to get coverage. Choose your best angle and pitch it once, politely follow up then let it go.
And if your event was covered once, don’t expect the reporter to jump at every new announcement you make, whether it’s newsworthy or not. Nobody likes to be viewed as the mouthpiece for a cause or organization, no matter how worthy.
-Finally, if you want the reporter to put you on the “do not call again” list, pester him or her when you don’t see the story in print. Reporters don’t love their stories being held by editors either and sometimes they are the last to know when the story runs.
Ask once to understand the editorial scheduling process, check back in after that time has passed, and then just be patient. The writer may already feel frustrated about that story being on hold, no need to add more pressure.
Just like with the dating game, courting a reporter for coverage means you have to put your best foot forward. But for continued success, treat your relationship as if it’s in a perpetual honeymoon phase.