Top 10 Ways for Founders to Get Positive Media Attention

July 17, 2017

Eileen O’Connor has seen it all. Before taking the helm as Yale’s Vice President for Communications, she lived and worked in Afghanistan as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. With a career that included serving as a national and White House correspondent and Moscow Bureau Chief for ABC and CNN, and a law career that involved founding a legal crisis management practice that represented Fortune 100 companies and CEOs and pro bono work bringing human right abusers to justice, O’Connor has learned how to shut down bad press—or avoid it altogether—and how to get a compelling story in front of a receptive audience. She spoke recently with the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Fellows about how they can avoid potential pitfalls, get recognized in the deluge of digital media and give a great interview. Below, her top 10 advice for getting positive media attention.

  1. Develop talking points.“Think about—why am I doing this? What is the impact I intend to have? and then develop 30-second pitches and some key talking points,” O’Connor told the Fellows.
  2. Think about potential pitfalls. “How would you explain yourself if one of these arose?” O’Connor said, putting on her lawyer’s hat. “Set up a process in the beginning to avoid these pitfalls. If you have a process of governance, you can say that you thought it through and had a process for dealing with it.”
  3. Establish proactive messaging. You need to be able to zero in on why an audience should care about this and make that central to your message. “Think about what audience you need to be reaching and ask ‘What do they care about?’”
  4. Do your research.“Communications is about research,” O’Connor told the Fellows. Find out who your audience is, who the influencers are on social media and who the reporters are that are covering your industry.
  5. Be credible. “Your credibility is very valuable,” she said. “When you don’t know something, admit it. And be credible in your claims—don’t overpromise.”
  6. Keep pushing your message.“With social media, you have to keep pushing it,” says O’Connor.  “When you’re sick of saying it, most people are hearing it for the first time.”
  7. Do the reporter’s homework.The more you do for the reporter, the more likely they are to run with your story. O’Connor says you can “identify experts who have validated your work and customers who have benefited from your technology. Reporters love character-driven stories.” And don’t forget the importance of visuals—high res photos and videos are a must for impactful social media posts.
  8. Treat reporters as force multipliers. “Establish relationships with reporters who are covering your industry,” O’Connor said. “Flatter them, offer them coffee, call them up.  They are also knowledgeable and can give you good insights or intel on your industry. 
  9. Ask reporters questions. It’s in your best interest to know as much about a reporter’s intended angle as possible. “Ask what the story is about, what the angle is, and who else they are talking to,” O’Connor told the Fellows. “That will give you a good idea of where they see you in relation to the story.”
  10. Always prepare for interviews. Before the interview, determine your talking points. “What are three key things you want to get across and three facts to go with those messages?” she asked. “People love a good anecdote. Come up with concise answers and practice it.”

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Innovation & Entrepreneurship, (203)804-1911, brita.belli@yale.edu