Think like a Journalist

Effective media relations involves working with the journalist on the story. Put yourself in their position. If you’re working with a producer or assignment editor, think about how your story will fit into the broadcast or paper.  If you’re working with the reporter, think about why people will be interested in your story. Remember that the reporter must sell the story to the editor, so help them out.

Two Good Rules:

  • Rule Number 1:  The Inverted Triangle, or the concept of placing the most important information at the beginning of the story and summing up the story in the first sentence.
  • Rule Number 2:  Be Brief. Today’s broadcast journalists are hard pressed to tell their story in the briefest amount of time possible.

Proactive vs. Reactive Media Relations

Reporters do not sit around the newsroom waiting for your call. They often have several stories in progress, deadlines and obstacles in the pursuit of the news. Therefore, you must BE PROACTIVE

  • PROACTIVE media relations means your organization reaches out to the media when it’s not a crisis, letting them know about your organization and having materials ready for them. Create the relationship before the story becomes the issue.  Create a file of names, phone numbers, email addresses and fax numbers for your contacts. 
  • REACTIVE media relations, comes into play when the media comes to you in response to an event.  Rarely is this managed in a completely effective manner. Your good relations with the media will go a long way if you find yourself caught off-guard and unprepared for an “on the run” interview or sudden phone call interview.

Know the right “media” for your target audience

Traditionally we think of the media in terms of our interactions with them. The first thing that comes to mind might be television, radio or newspapers. Within each of these categories are specific elements targeted at groups of people (or demographics). When creating your message be mindful of the target demographic of your selected media outlet. 

Twelve Golden Rules for Talking to the Media:

  1. Be honest and concise.
  2. Be aware that you’re being recorded and that anything you say can and will come back as the story evolves.
  3. Avoid dramatic presentations.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”  (Followed, of course, by “But I will find out.” )
  5. Nothing is “off the record;” once you have said it, it is said.
  6. Don’t be afraid of silence. It’s a technique often used by reporters to prompt people to continue talking.
  7. Never say “No Comment” or push past reporters. Be respectful and explain why you can’t answer such as "My attorney has advised me not to answer that.”
  8. Avoid sarcastic or cute remarks.
  9. If you see a camera or microphone, assume you’re being recorded. (Some microphones can pick up sound at 50 feet). Assume that all phone conversations are taped.
  10. Make sure that the background is appropriate. Avoid roads or streets that might become noisy.  Avoid having crowds or unknown people in the background.
  11. Always have a tie, jacket or nice shirt or blouse available.
  12. Avoid nervous, non-verbal signals such as the plastered smile, jingling keys or pocket change, or fidgeting with your clothing or hair.  For heaven’s sake, don’t chew gum or light a cigarette!