Concluding my short series on building your media profile, the first tip this month is very simple: be a source journalists can trust. A reputation as a reliable source is vital.
Occasionally, journalists bring me stories needing facts checked and perspective given on a confidential basis. One such story concerned a well-known public figure’s personal financial arrangements. The media entity in question thought it had a big story. In reality, it had nothing.
Few journalists are financial professionals themselves and, while the major operators have very good backroom researchers, they are not infallible. By explaining the reality, I was able to save them a lot of wasted time and money. It perhaps even saved them a lost libel case.
Tip two: If you do not know, just say “no”. I have declined interviews where the subject matter was so far beyond my competence I could not have crammed for it beforehand in the time available.
Politicians have back-up researchers but you probably do not unless you work for an institution, a large network or a national firm. If you cannot do a gig, say so. The journalist or presenter will respect your honesty. And if you can help them out by suggesting an alternative interviewee who does have the competence, then do so.
Tip three: Think about your image. What image do you want to – and should you – portray? Professional, obviously. But beyond that, you do not need to be a stuffy one-dimensional cardboard cut-out.
If you routinely dress so smartly you could be mistaken for a tailor’s dummy that is fine, but you do not need to act like one. This profession has an image of being all grey men in grey suits but it is not actually compulsory to look and sound like John Major.
Try to deliver a performance in colour, even if it is on radio. The BBC Radio Leeds audience knows I am a Harley-riding biker who is given to wearing Hawaiian shirts in the summer. I am sure that puts off some potential clients but the sort of people it puts off I would probably not want as clients anyway.
Tip four: Be flexible. Anything can happen in live broadcasting. Do not hold it against the station or the presenter if, having inconvenienced yourself to do a gig, it gets canned at the last minute and you end up not appearing after all.
It has happened to me before. I was in the BBC Radio Leeds studio last year as the reports were coming through about the murder of MP Jo Cox. The more dramatic an event or item, the more likely it is to take precedence. And let’s face it, most things are more exciting or dramatic than money matters; most of the time at least.
Sometimes they will just get the chance of using somebody they want more than you. Do not take it personally. You will never be able to out-diva the media pros anyway, so do not even try.
Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions