The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with the Media
By Pam Lontos
As a business owner, you probably know how important
publicity is to the success of your business. But the truth is, many
entrepreneurs, high-level executives and even marketing and public
relations managers (and maybe you’re one of them) make crucial
mistakes when dealing with the media – and then they end up on
reporter’s block call or spam e-mail lists. The good news is, by
being aware of the more common dos and don’ts of dealing with
reporters and editors, there are many steps you can take to avoid
Reporters, editors and producers are deluged with requests
from hopeful business owners, corporate public-relations
professionals, authors and other people seeking coverage. Their days
are spent meeting impossible deadlines while doing copious amounts
of work, all the while constantly communicating with all of those
So, if you’re ready to get the publicity your business
deserves, here are 15 tried-and-true ways to get the most out of
your media contacts, and ensure reporters, editors and producers
answer your calls and respond to your e-mails:
1. Don’t forge ahead with whatever is on
your mind. Do ask if the reporter or editor is on deadline.
Journalists’ time is as important as yours, and their deadline
pressures are horrendous. If they’re on deadline, ask for a good
time to call back.
2. Don’t be self-promotional; Do make sure to
share actual information with viewers or readers. Do
give value-added tips, advice or information so that you will help
improve people’s lives, offer insights or entertain. If you can
achieve that goal every time, the media will always make time for
you or even actively pursue you for interviews and articles.
3. Don’t say, “The answer is in my book/the
products on my Web site/the report we sell, etc” rather than giving
out the information during radio, TV or print media interviews.
Don’t be seduced by the thought that people should pay the price
of the book to learn what you think. Do view your interview
as a way to show how valuable you and your thoughts and ideas are.
That’s the best advertising you could possibly do to sell your
ask the reporter to send you his or
her article so you can review and approve it in advance.
Do provide follow-up contact information and
offer to be available to clarify any confusing points or answer
additional questions. Offer to help the writer check facts or review
small sections of the article for accuracy.
5. Don’t fail
to prepare for interviews or fail to familiarize yourself with
the readership or audience. Don’t
assume everyone should be interested in your subject matter, just
because. Do make sure your subject matter appeals to the
media’s target audience. If you are calling an editor at Better
Homes & Gardens Magazine, make sure you’re pitching an article that
fits with the homey, consumer-oriented material the magazine
specializes in. Read the magazines you want to be quoted in; watch
the interview shows where you want to be a guest.
6. Don’t ever nag the reporter. Do
space out your calls so you do not become a pest. Use e-mail rather
than expecting to connect every time by phone – many journalists
rely on e-mail as a way to get work done quickly, and many let most
calls go to voicemail anyway.
7. Don’t assume the reporter or editor
remembers who you are. Do remember they deal with multiple
sources and many different subject matters. Immediately identify
yourself by name or by topic before launching into the purpose of
your call – even if you spoke to the same journalist the week
8. Don’t expect the media to cover your topic when
another story is dominating the news. Do be aware of what is
happening in the news and tie your topic into those stories. Natural
disasters, big trends such as the failing economy, harmful lead in
children’s toys – the headlines will shape the media’s agenda. Do
wait 24 hours to pitch your topic if you can’t tie it in with the
9. Don’t delay when returning calls from reporters or
fact-checkers. Do understand journalists are on
deadline and need to speak with you now. If you snooze, you may
lose the chance for an interview.
10. Don’t call a magazine a week before a big
holiday, such as Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving, with your
holiday-themed idea. Do remember that magazines put out
holiday issues four or five months in advance. Time your pitches
11. Don’t leave your contact information off your
press releases or e-mails. Do err on the side of giving too
much information. Leave behind or mail in a business card. Send a
follow-up email with your phone number. Put all contact information
on your news releases.
12. Don’t just talk about what's important to
you during an interview. Do answer the questions asked during
the interview. You need to be responsive to the questions asked by
the interviewer, or else the interviewer will be frustrated and
never want you back. Also – you need to know for a fact that the
information you’re giving out is accurate. Don’t give out
information unless you’re sure of it.
13. Don’t demand the article mention your company,
your products or the book you have written. Do be happy that
you are being interviewed! Don’t try to overly control the
outcome. You’ll seem pretentious or worse if you try to put
conditions on the interview, such as insisting you are the first
person quoted in the story or the only expert mentioned.
High-and-mighty attitudes will get you dropped from the interview
14. Don’t complain if the reporter gets the
slightest thing wrong in the story. Do be happy if the
reporter includes you, even if he or she left out a point or quoted
someone else more than you. A mistake that seems big to you may be
small in perspective. Don’t ask for a correction unless it’s
15. Don’t contact the reporter’s boss –
editor-in-chief – or the publisher if you're unhappy with the way
the story turned out. Do let an interviewer or reporter know
if you’re unhappy, but do it respectfully, remembering to listen
during the conversation. He or she may say something that will
change your feelings. Always try to work out the difficulty directly
with the journalist – it will deepen your relationship in the long
Work these do
and don’t practices into your behavior when dealing with the news
media, and soon have the media relationships you’d always hoped for.
Exercise a little courtesy and common sense, and you’ll have the
reporters and producers seeking you out time after time.
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