Once, during the winter, I was working on a story involving ticket scams. With the Seahawks charging toward their big game with the 49’ers—it seemed like good timing. Lots of people in Portland like to travel up to the games in Seattle.
The added bonus is the Oregon Attorney General’s Office put out a helpful tip sheet in the form of a press release that same day. It went to every media organization in the state, TV, radio and newspaper.
The tips listed the do’s and don’ts for buying tickets online. How perfect! We’d let the AG or someone in her office be the expert, draw up a list of graphics to show the viewers how to stay safe and interview some folks on the street. We’d have a good, informative story for the news that night.
And then I called the AG’s office.
No, there’s not really anyone here who can talk with you, I was told. But you sent out a press release on this stuff today, I countered. Why would you send this out, trying to get media attention but not have any humans who can speak? Well, the AG is out of town and there’s really no one else who can talk with you, I was told.
I really could not believe it. I shared that with the person on the phone from the AG’s office. He promised to send out an email to see if anyone wanted to go on camera but he doubted it.
The only logical thing I could think of to explain the press release was that they did not expect TV to bite and figured the radio guys would simply read the release and maybe the newspaper guys would take quotes over the phone.
When I do my media trainings, I urge companies to be ready for the call if they put out a press release. Most of the time it probably won’t come, but when it does you must be ready!
The station wanted the story done whether or not the AG’s office went on camera. I called the Better Business Bureau and had a completely opposite experience.
They had put out a similar press release the week before but would be happy to have a spokesperson call me. She did indeed call in the next five minutes and we quickly arranged a time for an on camera interview. She was a pro and hit every question out of the park.
In the end, the AG’s office found a woman who agreed to go on camera for the first time in her life. She was brave and did quite well but it was not the same as a seasoned spokesperson.
The BBB was more prepared for the AG’s press release than the AG’s office themselves.
And that night on the news, the BBB benefited from the hard work but lack of preparation by the AG’s office.
The lesson here: if you think you have something to say that’s important enough for a press release then you must have someone who can physically appear and state your points.