As PR professionals we speak to media representatives all the time, but it CAN be a tricky skill to master, which is why I thought it opportune to share a few insights about what PR people should and should not say when speaking to reporters.
Bear in mind reporters often call when PR people are on the hop and inevitably when the journalist is close to deadline, and in the pursuit of a story have been known to trip up even the savviest of operators.
For this reason, once your media release has gone out – be aware that you have invited the media into your world and they may well come knocking, which is a good thing.
So, once you have piqued their interest, the people at PR Daily have done some interesting work on the key phrases PR people need to use when dealing with the media. They were so apt and timely, I thought I would share them with you.
Things PR People SHOULD say:
1. “I’ll start on this immediately.” When you get a request from a journalist, it must be treated as a priority task because with news, as with most things in life, timing is everything. If you deal with a reporter’s request speedily and with accuracy and completeness it may well develop into a relationship that is mutually beneficial into the future as they may come to rely on you as a regular and reliable ‘source’ for stories.
2. “Here’s an update…” If the story is developing rapidly, or if you are still waiting on key pieces of info, there is nothing to be lost by giving them a progress report on what information you do have, and which pieces you are still working on. This is a good faith gesture that reminds them that you are on the case.
3. “I can coordinate visuals.” With TV, print and online reporters this is a crucial extra step than can ensure that your story gets picked up while others, that might not have the additional element of an engaging visual, might not make the cut.
4. “I liked your coverage of _____.” Being knowledgeable of a reporter’s ‘beat’ or area of expertise is respectful and shows that you know your stuff, and proves that you are not taking the old ‘scatter gun’ approach to contacting the media, but rather that you have put some thought into it, and are targeting them specifically, which they will appreciate.
Conversely there are some pitfalls to avoid when speaking to reporters, so for completeness here are the top 4 things PR people should NOT say to journalists
1. “Did you get my press release?” For a journo, this is a total non-starter. If you sent the media release, chances are they got it, and are calling you as a result. They are calling you for information that is not readily available, to draw out the story and to see what unique or interesting angles they can pursue. Have faith in the strength of your story angle but be flexible to develop it with them. And don’t beg.
2. “What types of articles do you run?” It is your job to know which reporters you are pitching your story to, and their areas of interest. If getting your story into their publication is important, then you should already know this info before you speak to them.
3. “This is a perfect fit for you.” As well as being presumptuous, this line is unhelpful – it is not for you to decide if this is the right story for their publication. That is the role of the reporter and their editor or sub-editor. Don’t tell them how to do their job, just help them to do it.
4. “You’ll have to be quick; I don’t have much time” Journalists work with real time pressure – it is a job requirement and a reality of every publication. Your deadlines are not their problem, but the need for you to work with their deadline IS important. Be respectful of their timeframe and try your best to meet it. Be as helpful and timely as you can in providing information and check what format they require supporting materials – images, video, audio, interviews… whatever it might be.
All of the above is salient advice, and in the context of the ongoing cutbacks on the number of journalists working here in our Australian market, the need for efficient inter-relationships between journalists and PR practitioners has never been so important. A GOOD PR firm will manage these relationships deftly and with great aplomb, thereby marking themselves out as genuine professionals. If you need a referral to an agency like that, I think I might just know of one ;-)