Do you ever notice that TV reporters trip all over each other to broadcast weather-related stories when your local community is in the throes of a heat wave or if the wind chill is 30 below and snow is stacked up a few feet high in the driveway?

Seems that weather reporters are always looking for new ways to report an old story. Some of them interview managers of the local road commission to get an idea when the salt trucks and plows will be running. Others call the local utility for advice on where to set the thermostats and if the citizens can expect any brownouts.

Then there are those who call on members of the HVACR contracting community to get their take on how to survive during extreme temperature swings. Unfortunately, reporters sometimes let their fingers do the walking and contact anyone with a pulse under the air conditioning or furnace headings in the local telephone book.

I remember watching a newscast last winter that included a story about keeping energy bills to a manageable level during the cold winter months. The TV reporter was interviewing a source about changing furnace filters.

Rather than contacting one of the hundreds of HVAC contractors in the metropolitan Detroit area, he chose to interview an employee of Home Depot.

Don't get me wrong; the guy was knowledgeable and gave some good, albeit mundane, advice about checking and changing furnace filters. My curiosity got the best of me, so I contacted the reporter to find out why he made Home Depot the source for his viewers to consider when they needed answers to heating and cooling problems.

His reply was that the TV station had used the guy from Home Depot because the company offered the interview in a remote broadcast they happened to have going on that day. But the reporter agreed that I could have provided a good source for the story and he indicated that if employees at the station did something similar in the future, they would ask for a recommendation.

I'm not going to wait until he contacts me this fall before the heating season. I plan on sending him a reminder, and another one, and another one...

Help Yourself

When the thermometer tops the century mark in the coming weeks, you can take some steps to make it more likely that your company takes advantage of a scenario like this one:

The phone rings and Channel 7 wants to send a reporter out to visit you and meet your tech at one of the A/C repair calls. They call you because you took the time to send them a letter with contact names, offering to be a source for weather-related news stories.

Make sure the person answering your phone knows about the situation, asks about the intentions of the person calling from the TV station, and relays those intentions to you. These calls are often misconstrued as sales or marketing calls. Don't blow the opportunity. Take the call and make the appointment.

Find your best tech and make sure he or she is dressed in a clean uniform and wearing a company hat (if you use one). If you are inside the home, be sure that you have booties on and throw down a rug or rug runner with your company logo displayed prominently.

Make sure the van is clean and park it where the TV crew has to walk around it. Make sure your tools are organized. Pretend you are filming a commercial because you are filming a commercial.

Take a moment to explain to the reporter that the people getting first priority service are those with service agreements (and explain what that means). Also ensure that the reporter learns about your emergency service and extended office hours, which you offer during these critical times.

Turn the news story into a free advertisement.

John Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1294, 248-786-1390 (fax), or

Publication date: 08/02/2004