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Can You Sell Your Company’s Story In 30 Seconds? Tips For Speaking With Reporters

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at September 9, 2021

Mark Macias is the Founder of MACIAS PR, named 2017-2020 Strategic PR Firm of the Year and 2015-2017 Financial PR Firm of the Year.

Very few publicists get to go inside the morning news meeting where stories are debated, argued, sold and bought. It’s a tough crowd, especially in New York where producers and journalists are eager to prove their ideas are stronger than yours. 

Inside these meetings, you typically have about 30 seconds to communicate an idea and how it impacts readers or viewers. For more complicated stories, this task gets harder as attention wanes and competitive peers try to sell their stories over yours for the front page or A block.

Thirty seconds might seem like plenty of time to sell an idea, but if you start the clock and put it to the test, you will see it’s not easy. 

During my time as an investigative producer with NBC, I studied at the journalism think tank Poynter Institute. One of our guest lecturers, a deputy editor at the New York Times, shared valuable insight I still practice today. In fact, his approach is embedded with my PR agency and is how we frame initial story ideas.

The editor said every story can be narrowed down to three words. And the sooner we practice this exercise, the more focused and concise our investigative stories become.

Narrow your story down to one sentence.

It’s OK if you find it difficult to narrow your story down to three words. For the business owner or entrepreneur, you can learn to frame your story in one sentence. This approach will keep your angle more focused when you’re speaking with reporters.

Over the years, different publicists have asked me why journalists are “impatient.” A few entrepreneurs have even described reporters as “scatterbrains.” I don’t think most reporters are unfocused or intentionally rude, based on my experience working with them inside different newsrooms. Instead, I think the more experienced journalists pay closer attention to the seconds that matter. They don’t want to hear unnecessary elements that don’t pertain to the story. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake many leaders make when speaking with reporters.

You can’t be verbose when speaking with reporters, especially when they’re under deadline. If you get a reporter on the phone and they’re under a deadline, now is not the time to practice the message. It hurts your chances of getting coverage.

Speaking faster doesn’t help.

I’ve listened to many clients speak with reporters. Maybe it’s their nerves or possibly the time crunch, but many leaders speak twice as fast when they communicate with reporters.

Speaking faster doesn’t mean you’re communicating better.

I always advise clients to communicate the big picture first. You don’t need to give the reporter everything at once. If the reporter is interested, they will ask more questions and give you more time based on their curiosity.

That’s the challenge you need to accept when speaking with journalists. Approach each element of the interview in 30-second increments. If you get promoted, the reporter will ask another question and you will get additional time to sell the story. If you’re failing, most reporters will kindly exit the interview in many cases before you even realize it. 

This communication style transcends journalism.

I’ve media trained many CEOs who have told me this communication style helps them with fundraising and sales. And I believe it. 

Human behavior tends to transcend any industry. If you tell a boring story to a university professor or elementary school student, they will both tune you out. This is why it’s so critical to understand the audience and tailor the message to them. For the elementary school student, you might use different analogies and vocabulary than for a university professor. But at the root of the message, the story must still be captivating. 

When you’ve mastered the attention of the teacher and student, you’re likely on target for a successful conversation with a reporter. And if you find a way to engage different generations, it’s even that much better. 


Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


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