Your rights as a small or medium size business when dealing with the media

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English: EBZ Business School See
English: EBZ Business School See (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The business media can be useful to promote your product or service but there is a huge potential downside in that your business could be put in a bad light. We’ll get to the potential dangers in the moment but don’t be lulled into thinking that the business media will tell your story accurately, freely and in a balanced way. Those are just words they parrot but be careful because they have a very rigid agenda.

I raise this subject because many small and medium-size business owners are not used to dealing with the media. They don’t know their rights when dealing with the media. There is absolutely no obligation on your part to reveal information about your business unless you have a clear and deliberate purpose to do so. You are not a stock exchange listed company and do not have any obligation to tell the public via these business newspapers your private business.

If you decide to do a media interview make sure you know the questions upfront. If the journalist or reporter can’t provide them to you, decline the interview. Get a sense of the person’s experience level. If you’re in the hands of a junior, tread very carefully. Product publicity can be useful for your business but remember that unless you are catering to this general business audience, you not going to pick up enquiries. It’s far better to use targeted media.

Know your objective for a media interview. What is it that you want to achieve? Do you want to promote your product or service? Do you want to join the supply chain of one of the larger companies? Be careful about this to unless the terms of the big company are favourable.

You reveal as much information as you want to reveal. There is no obligation on you to reveal your turnover, your profits, your profit margin, your employee numbers – nothing like this. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security when you meet with a media representative. There is no such thing as “off the record”. Journalists will know about that information and can get other people to verify it. Only give information you want to give and steer clear from “background” information.

The problem is that the reporter may provide a “good story” but the sub editor will want to twist the facts so that they can get a controversial headline to please their readers but at your expense. Be aware of the difference between controlled media and uncontrolled media. When you publish your own newsletter that is controlled media. When you approach the so-called business press that is uncontrolled media.

If the so-called business media make mistakes, which they will, you have little recourse. If you are very, very lucky, they may print a correction. They hate admitting their errors. Who do you think will read that error? They’ll all read the error in the article but they’re not going to see the correction. Nor are they likely to see the letter you write to the editor. Who’s going to read your letter?

Do a media interview if you want to but just be aware of the caveats I’ve mentioned. There are prying eyes that may want to snuff businesses like yours out, grab a share of it for free, penalise it, make fun of it. You have to protect your livelihood and that of the people who work for you and those who may have put money in your business. Be prudent. Tread with caution.

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