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The First Steps


Become an expert with an "always-available" attitude.

The world is full of experts. But how many are willing to drop what they're doing and make themselves available for a last minute comment? Reporters are notorious for working around very tight deadlines, just as editors often face the need for a quick story to fill otherwise blank space. And producers love to snare a top pro on short notice to comment on a breaking story.

If you prove that you will come through to provide some insight or comment, especially in a pinch, they will flock to you.

Always be prepared.

Smart fund companies will predetermine which analyst, portfolio manager or executive will talk if particular news stories surface. Sometimes fund groups will opt to work with PR media trainers who can teach exactly how to handle an interviewer's questions, or overcome objections that may be raised. Media trainers can also help with something as seemingly simple as positioning a company official in a chair, or teaching how to effectively communicate through body language.

Look for story angles to pitch to reporters and editors.

Pitching story ideas can be a hit-and- miss proposition. You shouldn't expect reporters to clamor over every story idea you send their way. But by the law of averages, some story pitches will eventually "stick." The resulting article may be well worth the wait.

One point to remember. Be sure to pitch the right stories to the right reporters. A general business reporter may be happy to talk with your chattiest portfolio manager about the possibility of a recession. But a mutual fund reporter who usually profiles novel new funds would just yawn. Pitch selected stories to selected targets.

Be assertive.

It's okay to be right out in front with ideas, stories, trends and solutions for the media to consider. The whole idea is to get noticed, without becoming a pest.

But remember that when you're calling a reporter on one thing, she may have a different agenda. While you're pitching one story idea, she could have another on the back burner that, now that you're on the phone, makes sense to interview your firm for.

I won't deny that working with the media has its ups and downs. There is always the horror story of someone being grossly misquoted, or a vicious reporter attacking a fund's performance, manager or ethics. But those are few and far between. More often than not, dealing with the media can be a very amicable and rewarding experience.