How to Use the Press to Attract New Customers

By Geoffrey James

One of the best ways to generate new business is to get some positive press coverage. Most software sales managers lack the skills to use the press effectively, however. Here are five basic rules for using the media to get your message out to real live prospects.

1. Know your agenda. The reporter is a conduit to potential customers. Because of this you should speak to the interviewer as if he or she were a customer rather than a member of the media. For example, if you’re asked how CRM can improve sales productivity, don’t try to draw analogies between reporters who must travel and salespeople who must travel. Instead, talk about real customers who you have helped.

2. Do your homework. Be sure you know the reporter’s name and audience. Anticipate probable questions and practice your responses with an associate before the interview. Prepare yourself by rehearsing three key messages you want to communicate to potential customers and then work them into your responses. For example, if you’re selling installation services and one of your differentiators is that you’ve been operating since 1980, you should find a way to mention that you’ve been in business for 25 years.

3. Provide a backgrounder. Software products are inherently complicated so be sure you give the reporter information prior to the interview, including your name, title and a brief one- or two-sentence biography. Providing reporters with background information helps ensure that your messages get through. One caveat: Never send out-of-date material.

4. Maintain the right attitude. Speak in personal terms whenever possible to enhance credibility. For example, saying we have 3,000 happy customers sounds like weasel words, while saying I worked with one company that saved a million dollars in one week makes your product benefits real. Don’t be a know-it-all. If you don’t know an answer, say so. Refer the reporter to someone who can answer the question or tell the reporter you’ll get back later with the answer. Then do so.

5. Don’t get trapped. If the reporter makes an inaccurate statement, correct it immediately but politely. Don’t get into an argument because you’ll lose. Remember, it’s the reporter who has the printing press. Never speak off the record. If you do not want a statement quoted in the media, do not make it. If a question contains negative language or words you don’t like, do not repeat the reporter’s negative words. You run the risk of having the reporter’s negative language attributed to you. Instead, state your answer in a positive way. For example: If you say, rhetorically, “CRM is shelfware? I don’t think so.” Your answer could be shortened during editing to “CRM is shelfware.” A better answer would be: Companies that use CRM see a 50% jump in sales.