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STRATEGIC MINUTE: Celebrating Progress while Recognizing Existing Challenges

By Lucy Wang

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As we reflect on 2021 and prepare for 2022, many businesses have been able to bring back services that had been put on hold since the beginning of the pandemic. We are seeing business owners, their staff, and customers are all excited. 

As a business leader, you may want to share your organization’s good news with the media, but you might also worry that a reporter will ask about other things happening in your industry or in the community. 

Maybe you’re not sure how the latest COVID-19 variant will affect your business. Or maybe one part of your company is doing really well, while other aspects of the industry are negatively impacting your business. When considering all of this, how do you make sure you have a great media interview about your exciting milestone, when certain challenges remain? 

As we look ahead to 2022, businesses will gain momentum and reach significant milestones at varying rates. Maybe a restaurant is finally fully staffed and operating at maximum capacity. Or a small local business finally signed a new client for the first time in months. Perhaps a company is finally booking big, long-term projects or lining up smaller projects that are expected to keep it busy well into the future. Maybe a business completely shifted its focus during the pandemic and is trying something new. 

This exciting progress deserves recognition, and may pique the local media’s interest. 

When sharing your story, here are a few tips that will help you talk about your achievements while being mindful of the work that still needs to be done — either specifically for your business, or in the community as a whole.

1. Be prepared

Write down the key points that you want to make sure to get across during an interview. Brainstorm potential questions that a reporter could ask, and then figure out how you’ll respond. Practice saying these key messages out loud to make sure they are clear, easy for you to say, and easy for others to understand.

As part of your prep work, read through recent articles from the reporter or the news outlet that will be interviewing you, and review recent news stories happening in your industry. This will help you to anticipate questions and determine how to respond.

2. Get the facts do the talking 

Be clear on what the achievement is and have supporting facts to back it up. Did your team reach a sales number that the company hasn’t seen since March 2020? Did you hire more employees to support operations returning to pre-pandemic levels? Be clear and concise about the milestone, including why it’s important to your business and to the community. 

It’s also important to put numbers into context. For example: what does it mean to go from a team of three employees to a team of five employees? The right set of facts and figures, along with a relevant, supporting explanation, makes a compelling story. 

3. Be strategic

Know when to talk about your business specifically, versus when to talk about your industry as a whole. Our general rule of thumb is to focus on your business specifically when promoting good things, and talk about the industry in general when acknowledging challenges.

This strategy not only helps you avoid being quoted as saying something negative about your own business, but it also helps to position you as a thought leader on the future of your industry.

4. Be transparent

If you must talk about a particular challenge with the media, take control and be direct. Acknowledge the challenges facing your industry or the local community, and whenever possible, remind the reporter of the bigger picture. 

The reality for many industries is that returning to a pre-pandemic status still requires more time. This means that many businesses may share the same challenges. By referencing common challenges — either within a particular sector, or for all businesses — you help your audience gain a better understanding of your position and the economic landscape. 

5. Have an actionable plan and be ready to discuss it

While your intention with a media interview may be to celebrate an accomplishment, if you also have to acknowledge challenges, then it’s important to be ready to share a plan to resolve them. Ideally, you already have all the resources lined up and ready to set the plan into action. But if your next steps are not carved in stone, or certain logistics are still in working progress, try to share a general direction of how you’d like to tackle these issues, what external factors need to be put in place, or how you’ve addressed similar issues in the past. 

By sharing an actionable plan with the media and the community, you are showing you understand the work that still need to be done, and you’re also actively working to get it done. 

Even when challenges exist, you can still share your exciting news while being sensitive — and strategic — about the bigger picture. You have reached a milestone or accomplished something significant for your business — and that’s great.

Talking to the media about challenges is never easy. But with the right strategy, preparation, and mindset, business leaders can turn a potentially stressful interview into an opportunity to discuss plans for a stronger and more vibrant business. 

Now, go get ready to share exciting and strategic stories about your business in 2022.      

Lucy Wang is a consultant for Strategic Communications, LLC. Syracuse–based Strategic Communications (www.StratComLLC.com) says it provides trusted counsel for public relations, including media strategy, media outreach, media monitoring, and analysis.