When Terry Cole began her reporting career, she covered the water commission. She admitted, “I didn’t get it.”
She was fortunate, though, because the commissioner spent time with her explaining about water and how the water commission worked. His taking the time to do that helped ensure the accuracy of her reporting.
Today she is the Communications Practice Director for Jacobs Engineering with more than 25 years of experience implementing strategic communications programs. Along the way, she’s learned some ways to help other reporters, which she shared during the 2014 NFPW conference in Greenville, S.C.
- Find the sizzle in the technical stories. If it’s too technical, audiences won’t be interested, which means reporters won’t be interested.
- Avoid jargon. This goes without saying.
- Break down the challenging concepts. Taking the time to do this leads to more accurate and interesting stories.
- Provide a list of acronyms. These are also good to share internally so there is no confusion.
- Think of visuals. Cole noted that sometimes spending time with a photographer or videographer to get the right shot may be your only opportunity to tell your story, so use the time wisely.
- Don’t let people start from a place of panic. Most companies have a reason for the processes they have in place, Cole said. Too often, though, when a reporter asks a question about the process, people panic. “You have a reason for doing what you do,” Cole said. “Take the time to explain.”
- Provide media training. She wasn’t referring to media training for executives, but rather to those on the front line. At a minimum, the training will prevent them from saying, “I can’t talk to the media.”
And if all of those techniques fail, Cole reminded the audience that most of us now have resources at our disposal for telling our stories.
A company website and social media platforms immediately come to mind, but she also encouraged the use of community events. For example, Spartanburg, S.C., has held a Paddle Fest the past three years as a way to help connect the community to its reservoirs and increase the stewardship of water resources.