Creating and maintaining healthy professional relationships with media contacts are key components of promoting your clients and their products. Below are a number of simple tips for working with the media:
1. Most reporters, particularly those with daily morning shows or publications, prefer to get calls fairly early in the day. Their deadlines are typically in the afternoon or early evening.
2. Return all reporters’ calls within the hour, or as promptly as possible, even if you know the inquiry is about a negative topic.
3. If time permits, familiarize yourself with the reporter and the publication/station. Read past articles the reporter has written or tune in to the station’s broadcast.
4. Anticipate questions and practice your responses, especially regarding topics that may be negative or complicated.
5. Any media interview is an opportunity to appropriately advance the goals and activities of your business.
6. Begin the interview by spelling your full and last name twice, along with your title.
7. Make your major points or key messages early in the interview. This sets the tone for the session and will help ensure that your comments are reported in the proper context.
8. Do not overuse industry jargon.
9. Use anecdotes and examples more than weighty statistics to carry your key messages. Real life experiences give real life to your interview.
10. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t guess. Tell the reporter that you are unsure, but that you’ll find out and call him or her back.
11. Don’t speak “off the record.” It’s acceptable to give the reporter background information but never say anything that you wouldn’t want to see in print or broadcast later.
12. Avoid the temptation to “wing it.” Listen to the entire question before responding. Don’t be drawn outside your area of expertise.
13. If you discover you’ve provided inaccurate information during the interview, contact the reporter right away to correct your error — before the story is printed or broadcast.
14. Do not ask for an advance draft of a story before it appears. Many reporters will deny such a request and interpret it as an effort on your part to censor or control the news. However, you should offer your assistance, if needed, in verifying facts or figures contained in the story before it goes to print.
15. Don’t attempt to go “over a reporter’s head” to influence a story. Most likely, you will be unsuccessful and only create resentment. If you believe the reporter has treated you unfairly, contact your regional public relations manager for the proper strategy.
16. Don’t offer or send gifts to the news media. Even inexpensive items could be misinterpreted as an attempt to influence the news coverage. If you are pleased by the way a story turned out, a complimentary phone call or thank you letter will suffice.
17. For television interviews, arrive at the TV station at least 30 minutes before the program. Upon arrival, ask for the show’s producer or the designated contact. It is acceptable to ask the producer if you can discuss the upcoming interview with both the producer and the interviewer. This will make the question and answer session easier on both you and the host. Don’t be bothered, though, if the host is unavailable.
18. Do not wear the color white, stripes or any complicated patterns to an on-camera interview.
19. Remember that radio and television interviewers often develop a regular following and that the audience does not know you. Avoid alienating the interviewer. Be friendly, address the interviewer by his or her first name, but don’t “fake” familiarity.
20. Feel free to have brief notes in front of you (that don’t necessarily have to be discussed) for your easy reference.
21. Always provide your interviewer with your business card and thank them for their time.
22. Let reporters know you are available for future stories, to increase the likelihood that they will call you again. This will help you to develop ongoing relationships with the media.
23. Be proactive in developing relationships with reporters. If you see an article that is within your area of knowledge, call the reporter to introduce yourself.