Cultivating a good working relationship with media is part of getting your stories out to the public. So, how can you quickly harm that relationship? Here are five common ways, if repeated too often, that will send your media relationship toward a divorce:
1. Tell a reporter what notes to take: If the reporter isn’t scribbling in his/her notebook as you’re talking about a particular point, don’t say: “Why aren’t you writing that down! That’s important!” The reporter is simply filtering what you’re saying. That’s why it’s important to know how to sell your information as important so a reporter will want to report about it.
2. Ask to see a copy of the story before it runs: Oh, this one really jabs reporters because most take it as questioning their professionalism. Instead, if you want to doublecheck what you have told a reporter, ask him/her to read your quotes back to you. If you’re worried about which other sources will be interviewed for the story, by all means, it’s fair to ask the reporter. But never expect to see a story before it’s published. You’ll see it when readers do: as soon as it’s published. The quick message here: Have a plan before you do an interview so you’re prepared. Repeat your key messages often so the reporter is sure to get it right.
3. Never return phone calls: Yep this one just multiplies the frustration of a reporter over time, to the point that you’ll create an adverse relationship. Like ’em or hate ’em, you need the media, especially in good times to help deliver your messages. So cultivate a professional working relationship. It’s worth it, even when you have to return a reporter’s phone call at 4:45 p.m. on Friday.
4. Pull the old issue a press release and dash stunt: Why is late in the day on Friday a popular time to issue news releases, particularly of the political or controversial kind? It’s because you can send it out, and then dash out the door, thereby leaving the reporter with no source (you) to interview. Sure, there are times when this strategy may actually help you. These are the times when you want to control the message by issuing a well-written release and hoping the media will simply use it verbatim. But pull this stunt too often and you’ll again create an adverse relationship with media that may be translated that way in print or on air in the future to readers or viewers. The quick message: Be accountable and available.
5. Tell an assignment editor which reporter to assign to your story: Do this, and odds are, you’ll be face to face with the reporter you didn’t want. That’s what happens when you try to tell other people how to do their jobs. It never hurts to praise a reporter’s previous work, but stop short of demanding which reporter should be assigned.