Here this week to share more advice with us is communications pro Matt Whittle! Make sure you read his last Belle blog post here, then learn all about media relations in today’s post. Connect with Matt on Twitter at @mwwhittle.
The story is out and it’s wrong. Whose fault is it?
What if I told you that once you take the steps to correct the mistake, it doesn’t matter “whose fault” it is? How about rather than assigning blame, which never works well, we look at how the mistake could have been prevented and what we could have done differently.
For us, the PR pros, the natural instinct is to blame the reporter. He’s the one who actually wrote the story. It’s his byline. But, like it or not, a large part of the responsibility lies with us – even if the mistake really is the reporter’s fault.
Why’s that? Because ultimately no mistake happens in a vacuum and every mistake can be prevented. The key for the PR pro is to put the reporter – and thus him/herself – in the best position possible to succeed. Here are a few media relations tips to minimize the risk of errors in your story.
6 Media Relations Tips.
1) Find the right news outlet. If your story belongs in a trade journal, don’t give it to the local paper. If your local media has a history of making mistakes despite your best efforts, either avoid working with them or be prepared for some serious handholding.
2) Find the right reporter. Don’t give your business story to the education reporter, don’t give your education story to the sports reporter, and don’t give your science story to the feature reporter. Make sure you know who you’re working with, and if an editor has given your story to the summer intern, take some extra time with them.
3) Paint a compelling picture with your pitch. This will not only hook the reporter, it will keep him engaged and help ensure that he is enthusiastic about writing your story.
4) Give the reporter a fact sheet before the interview/event. This will ensure he has correct background information and will force him to ask more insightful questions, which make for a better and more accurate story. Don’t force him to rely on past stories that may have their own errors.
5) Give the reporter experts to interview. Reporters thrive on the ability to ask questions and to understand their subject. Give them somebody who will take time to explain things in simple terms they and their readers will understand.
6) Make yourself available. Answer your phone. Respond to your emails. After a reporter interviews you or your client, typically they will sit down to write or to put their segment together. If they reach out that day or within the next few, you better answer. Odds are they have found a question they don’t have an answer to. It happens all the time. By that same token, make sure you let the reporter know if anything changes on your end.
Do Your Best
Is it the responsibility of the reporter to write a good and accurate story? Absolutely!
But it is the responsibility of the PR pro to give him every tool possible to make sure that story is good and accurate. That’s why PR pros exist – to facilitate good and accurate stories.
Do you have any media relations tips or stories to share? Let us know in the comments below!
Matthew Whittle is a former reporter and former communications specialist and now the executive director of the SmART Kinston City Project Foundation. In his spare time he seeks to help bridge the gap between public relations professionals and the media. You can talk to him on Twitter @mwwhittle.