Becoming a Media Magnet

Every business needs to be prepared for news media attention during an election year. Here are some need-to-know concepts about working with the news media.

Becoming a Media Magnet

This political season is shaping up to be another 2nd Amendment driven election. Every business needs to be prepared for a lot of attention. More press can also drive traffic and sales, but most owners fear they will generate bad press or they just do not understand the public relations process enough to make the effort. In this tips from a CMO series, I will cover some of the need-to-know concepts when working with the media.

The News Media Have a Job

Contrary to common opinion, the press, reporters, videographers and writers are, in most cases, not out to get you. As an example, TV news channels usually never know what they are going to do for interviews that day until an early-in the-morning story assignment meeting with the station GM where they all race to cover a hot topic or urgent story before another media outlet. Unless the reporter/editor is working on a long-term in-depth story, there is no time to spin a nasty story about your business. Most of the media just wants to provide factual information that tells an engaging and entertaining story for their viewership that they can wrap up, from start to finish, in a few hours. 

The key is to “help the press” tell the story you want them to tell. The more facts and information you can provide them, the more the story will slant in the direction you want it to. They want to tell a story and you want to drive traffic for your business — there is a compromise. If you become a reliable source for information and establish good working media relationships, the media will be far more likely to use you as a go-to source of information and interviews and will be less likely to feature your business negatively.


Over the years I have worked in businesses where there is an employee who will run to a camera or the press anytime they are around. They want to be on camera, quoted or in the shot regardless of their inability to string together coherent sentences. Generally those who want to be on camera are not the best for your company because they will say anything to keep the reporter’s camera on or on the phone interview longer. Just because someone has been interviewed or been on stage before does not mean they are qualified to be your company spokesperson. One younger marketing person I interviewed oddly insisted they were the media contact for a firearms manufacturer, but then went on to refer to bullet fps as “frames per second” and made many other editorial or confidential statements that should not have been shared. 

American-Idolish distorted self-perception is another problem. One employee self-professed as an interviewing expert was a bumbling idiot on camera during dry run practice. Media engagement is a planned strategy, not an Instagram attention grabbing opportunity.

Good Facts, Bad Speculation

Facts and factual statements are difficult to question or spin and excellent places to start providing information to the media. Plugging your business during an interview is not a fact. Self-plugs are so frowned upon that it will likely permanently end your media relationships unless prompted by the reporter. Bad press usually occurs from a potential neutral story when speculation, opinions, broad unsupported statements, derogatory opinions or poorly articulated facts are provided. 

Giving the media rehearsed facts is usually the best and safest avenue for businesses to engage with the media. Facts are your media buffer to questions you really do not want to or should not answer. Facts about the products, training, industry data, government regulated sales process and laws, local regulations, yearly sales or a unique strategy of your business are good talking points. 

Always be willing to deflect to a related fact or say “I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know this fact,” or, “I could not speculate on that, but I know this data says,” or “That is not in my area of expertise.” Never let any media person force you to speculate or elicit your opinion. This is especially critical in crisis or emergency situations. If you can make a statement that starts with “according to” or “based on the research by” you are in the perfect mindset.

Press Releases: Still a Thing

If your goal is to circulate good factual information, frequent published press releases on your website are always a great avenue to accomplish that task and provides historical chronology of company culture. A proper press release format is roughly composed of an introductory paragraph, “[Your Business Name] is excited to announce,” several paragraphs of information that should include facts about what the release is about, quotes from notable people and why this information is important. A closing paragraph usually includes effective dates, important business and media contact information and website links. 

The media researches press releases to help craft and support a story. If you are quoted as saying “We have always supported the female shooting sports owner,” the media could your press releases to show that you have a long history of supporting female shooters. A press release section on a website is also typically indexed well in search engines if there is a consistent (at least once a month) addition of new press releases. For most businesses, that includes new executive and manager additions, product lines added and upcoming events and charity work.

Having a specific listed media contact person and phone number in your website’s contact information is extremely important to assure the media always gets to the right person. The contact should never be a generic media@ email as those tend to become un-monitored and forgotten email accounts over the years. 


Everyone always wonders why professional politicians sound so polished in front of the camera. The reason is that they rehearse pre-written, canned responses continuously until they become second nature. The really good ones never ever answer questions that they have not prepared for. Answers to the questions, answers to potential questions, emotional responses and deflecting responses to unanticipated questions are all carefully crafted and rehearsed beforehand. As most PR experts will tell you, nothing is ever off-the-cuff or a “wing it” strategy. 

Generally, reporters want to be presented by a business with a list of topics they are prepared to discuss, written quotes (that they will read), bulleted data points/facts (to make them sound smart) and proposed interview locations with interesting backgrounds that can make the reporter/editor stand out. That allows you to help the media do their research, which means they are getting information you want them to present and rehearsing the message you are going to convey. 

Media Q&A

If your business gets an urgent call from a reporter or editor who wants an immediate reaction statement, always tell them “Right now I do not have the time, but let’s schedule a time later that will work for both of us.” Never provide unprepared responses. Ask to schedule a time in the future that allows you to prepare answers and accommodates their deadline. 

Make sure to document each and every media contact. Notes should include the date of contact, the name of the media contact, which media outlets they are representing, the interview subject, the intent of the coverage, any proposed questions or requested statements, their deadline and any other information they can share about the coverage. Capture that information when you are scheduling a future interview. Just a few hours of preparation can provide a huge advantage. Retaining media notes helps as a future reference if there is a miscommunication of facts or there is follow-up coverage. 

Ninety percent of the time, the media will take the bullet points you provided and provide an interview or background opener. That makes their job easier and provides some good points to lead them directly into questions that you have prepared and rehearsed. Most good reporters like that you have prepared and rehearsed statements because you will be far more professional during the interview, however they will rarely pitch a perfect softball question you have prepared for. Those experienced with responding to the media use a technique called deflection. One question is asked, but an answer from a carefully crafted and rehearsed script is provided that may be distantly related to the interviewer’s question. 


Reporter Q: What do you think about the guns used in the recent school shooting?

Business A: This was a horrible tragedy. What I can tell you is that the Government’s Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms division legally requires everyone purchasing any firearm from a licensed dealer to complete a 4473 that specifically requires a background check in that purchase process. Minors are not legally allowed to purchase firearms. I can show you that process and form.

Reporter Q: But these teenagers did have firearms. How do you respond to that?

Business A: We follow the federal, state and local rules and regulations. Overall federal law 18 U.S.C. 922 prohibits anyone under age 18 from possessing a handgun, so it would be illegal for them to purchase and possess firearms in the manner they did. Additionally, most states also have restrictions that only adults can purchase ammunition. Locally we require proof of age for all ammunition purchases.

The reason this technique is done heavily in politics and in business is that you want total control to get your points across to the viewer/reader without anyone putting spin on the answers. In the above example, it is clear that a business owner could really provide some bad responses if they have not prepared and if they do not stick to prepared statements. If you directly answer the question with an unprepared answer or fact, it is not going to go well. 

Aggressive Reporters

On rare occasion an overly-aggressive reporter will try to push for a controversial opinion or may try the unethical technique of a bait-and-switch coverage topic such as “We just want to talk about the gun purchasing process,” and then start the interview with accusations that you and gun shops are selling illegal guns to minors. 

For an aggressive opinion solicitor, a barrage of the above rehearsed facts on gun purchasing can really save you and make you look like a well prepared expert. In the case of a bait-and-switch topic, your response should always be the same. “This is a completely different topic than you indicated and I am unwilling to continue. Please turn the camera off and leave the premises.” 

Keep in mind that you are also a potential media advertiser and an immediate call to the station’s General Manager or media outlet should occur. A written complaint should be filed with the station GM or Editor immediately. GM’s know this is a bad business practice and will potentially fire reporters with continued reports of this behavior. Everyone should act like professionals and, if they do not, you should not work with them.

Staff Training

Businesses should strictly limit media contact to only those who have taken the time to rehearse and prepare. No staff member should be authorized to speak to the media if they have not had some type of training from the business ownership/management and are not specifically authorized to speak to the media. There are plenty of PR trainers available.

For most businesses, there should be only one person, preferably an owner, who is the media representative. The phrase, “I am not authorized to speak on the company’s behalf,” should be drilled into staff’s brains. Those authorized to speak on the company’s behalf must retain and rehearse fluently a list of potential media questions and answers and have a list of facts they can recite. 

Even if you are the most manly dude in the world, always accept a face powder if offered, otherwise the bright portable camera lights will make you look like a greasy-faced slime bag. As a guy who does many interviews, I’ve kept an appropriate powder for my complexion handy during interviews. Never look at the camera; lock eyes with the reporter and pretend you are looking into the eyes of your soul mate. Never look around or drop your gaze to the side or floor during an interview. A dropped gaze makes you look shifty and untrustworthy. If any potential media contact cannot maintain eye contact during even informal rehearsals, they should never go on camera.

Create the Story You Want Delivered

Most people in the media would rather take the easy route to get the job done, especially when that potentially delivers better content from a well-groomed interviewee. Recently, I helped a retailer move from about two minutes of holiday media coverage to more than 14 hours of in-store filming, and more than 30 media interviews across the holidays plus a huge amount of B-roll video. All I did was invite all the media outlets to a media day that featured fresh coffee, breakfast and bagels.

A media day at the range is an incredible opportunity to get positive messaging out there. Getting the media shooting is even better, but be sure to practice your responses and information bullets.

Media Magnet Checklist

Create a list of potential questions and answers.

List of easy to recite and relatable industry and legal facts.

Create a press kit that has basic information about your business, ownership and business focus.

Crisis and Emergency response plan — If something bad happens at your range, you need to have a planned response and pre-approved statements.

Create a list of media outlets with reporter/editor contact information and reach out at least quarterly.

Offer several planned media days that could including free training, gun handling safety, range time and purchase process training.

Practice, prepare and rehearse in the mirror.

About the Author

Tony Arnold is an awarded Chief Marketing Officer and marketing strategy thought leader with more than 20 years database marketing experience in global Fortune level corporations such as Sears, IBM and HP and is currently the CMO of a marketing solutions company. Over his career, Arnold was an Inc. Magazine Web Strategy Award Winner, launched the second e-commerce site in history, developed the largest retail CRM system processing 25B customer contacts yearly and has developed, created and managed database marketing systems that have generated approximately $57B in revenue.


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