Be prepared

Boy ScoutLike a good Boy Scout, an effective communications person is always prepared – for just about anything. We have event kits full of five kinds of tape, scissors, pens, paper, ribbon, cellphone batteries and other might needs. We prepare for meetings with clients so that we can make the most of the time we have with them. We prepare for webinars, video blogs and even this blog. In our world, very little happens spontaneously. For the most part, the communications professionals I know are can think on their feet; that comes from years of being prepared for a wide range of scenarios. We are, in fact, quite a thoughtful group. We think through every angle, every probability, every possibility.

We thoroughly prepare for any media relations outreach; we go through all the questions a journalist might ask and we know the answers. We prepare. We research. We review all potential (not just probable) outcomes and we identify the appropriate next steps for each. We develop media kits and websites that might never see the light of day (and since they are usually created in case an issue or crisis arises, we hope they stay dark).

Even our quick phone call pitches to journalists are prepared (and reviewed) in advance. Here at AHA, we have strong professional relationships with many journalists and our e-mails and phone calls usually get a response. That’s because we know how busy journalists are and we respect that – and we prepare. We have our key messages outlined before we call or e-mail, we have researched to make sure we know what this journalist and media outlet is currently interested in, we have asked ourselves all the questions that we believe the journalist might ask and we have the answers (or we know who to get them from). We are prepared.

Quite some time ago, we had a client ask why we would spend so much time preparing to pitch a journalist. He thought it was a waste of time. He wanted us to just pick up the phone and call and set up a meeting for him with the journalist. We had to explain that journalists are busy and aren’t just sitting and waiting for a call to set up coffee with someone they don’t know and have never heard of (our client). A well-crafted pitch provides the journalist with background, context and the key news points in a way that engages and interests them. Taking the time to do this right is crucial. It can be the difference between unanswered e-mails and voicemails and obtaining media coverage. Preparation is a key element to success when it comes to generating media coverage.

Taking the time to properly prepare is, in fact, cost-effective. Time spent preparing means that you are equipped with what you need to do a good job and not backtrack, change direction or have to correct mistakes. It takes less time to do something right the first time than it does to go back and fix it.

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