There’s a television program titled “Say Yes to the Dress” that recaps the trials and tribulations of brides selecting their wedding gowns. Since I worked in the bridal industry during college – at a salon not dissimilar to the famous retail establishment profiled in the show – it’s one of the few television shows that I watch. My interest isn’t really in wedding dresses; I’m fascinated by the well-oiled operations of the establishment, which brings back fond – and some not so fond – memories of what is undoubtedly the toughest job in the world. Think you’re having bad day? Imagine it’s 9:00 p.m. at night, you’ve missed lunch and dinner, and now it’s time to squeeze a size 24 bride into a size 4 sample gown while she insists she’ll lose all the weight by the time the non-refundable dress arrives. Or, visualize the cutthroat sales tactics used by Miss Viola and Miss Mimi (their names have not been changed) as they ambush and then tackle unsuspecting bridal parties minutes after they’ve entered the store.
As mentioned, my secret delight in watching this show is more process-centric than blushing bride. Let’s see how some of these processes can apply to working with the press:
- There are the “upstairs” employees and the “downstairs” employees – At Kleinfeld’s, the consultants are upstairs and the seamstresses are downstairs. It was no different when I worked in bridal. Know your position and play it well. If you’re the company spokesperson, then greet each press interaction with enthusiasm and endless patience. If you’re not, make sure you do a clean, professional handoff to the right resource within your organization.
- Be realistic - you’re not going to lose all of that weight. Waiting to tell your story to the press doesn’t necessarily make it a better story. Given how quickly the media works, all you’ll be is late to the party. Don’t put obstacles in your own way – package and present what you have today, rather than waiting for something that might not happen.
- It’s your day – use it! How many times have we reminded clients to smile and enjoy their moment? When the press offers 30 minutes, it’s 30 minutes that you’ve got.Hemming and hawing until the 28th minute means you’ve wasted your time to shine. Odds are the journalist is hanging up from a call with you to dial their next interview; if that interview is more productive, more polished and more pulled together, you’ll be as forgotten as a bride left at the altar.
- Properly planned, it all comes together in the end. Even the most crisis-fraught wedding looks like it came off effortlessly in the end. That’s why when we conduct media training classes, there’s one word we use over and over again: preparation. You can never prepare too much and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Write your key messages on index cards, in a notebook or on post-it notes around your computer monitor. Think of the headline you want to see in the article. And don’t forget to breathe, smile and enjoy yourself.