Part two: Frequently asked media relations questions

Confusing terms and jargon affecting decision-making: HLB Mann Judd Sydney
June 19, 2013
Developing an investment strategy that works: AUI
June 25, 2013

In my last blog (click here to read), I reviewed five of the most common questions I’ve been asked by clients about media relations.  And, as promised, here are the next five (together with my comments):

6. Why have you taken out all the excitement out of my release and left it bland?

A release should be factual.  That is, it should provide the facts and necessary details to allow the journalist to assess whether this is of interest to their audience, and then write a story about it.

The result can be a release that seems very bland to some business people.  But as previously mentioned, it’s far better to show, not tell, in a release.  Let the facts speak for themselves.

In addition, when writing a release, you shouldn’t try to write it in the style or format that a journalist would use.  Their job is to write a story in their style; yours is to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

7. This journalist just wrote a story about a company that offers the same service we do; can we contact them to write another one about us?

If a journalist has just written a story on a topic, it’s unlikely they are going to want to write another one covering the same area any time soon.  It’s particularly unlikely that they’ll be interested in a “me too” story except in limited circumstances – for example if it’s about an industry leader, in which case the organisation itself is the story.

A better approach is to come up with a new angle which expands the topic, and approach the journalist in a few weeks’ time to see if they are interested in this different story.

And a follow on question to this one:

8. Why didn’t the journalist contact us for the story, since we offer the same service?

As much as people may want to, they simply aren’t going to be included in every article written on the subject important to them.

Indeed, it’s probably preferable not to! I’ve heard journalists refer to “Mr/Ms Rent-a-Quote”, and some publications have even put a moratorium on using certain people as commentators or experts, simply because they seem to be quoted everywhere.

9. Can I ask the journalist to send me the story before they publish it, so I can make sure it’s OK?

This can be a very dangerous area.  Some journalists don’t mind sending their story to people they are quoting for fact-checking, and will even suggest it.  But others will be very offended to be asked.

It’s never a good look for an executive to do it themselves, so if it is important, get the PR professional to do it and take their advice, particularly if they say it is a journalist who will react badly.

The onus is on the person being interviewed to make sure that what they say is correct and intelligible, and that the journalist understands where they are coming from.

10. I don’t like the way the journalist has described me/the company/the product or service.  Can you tell them to change it?

If the story is factually incorrect, then it’s worth getting in touch with the journalist who wrote the story to let them know and give them the opportunity to correct their copy.  Most journalists will appreciate this if handled sensitively and without demands or threats – no-one likes to be forced to admit a mistake publicly.

But think carefully before asking them to print a correction or retraction – it often just draws attention to the mistake and reinforces its negativity.

However, if you simply don’t like the way the journalist has written the story, then there’s not much you can do about it.  Again, the onus is on you to get across the information correctly and in an easy-to-understand manner – and learn from it for next time.

Click here to read part one and part three of frequently asked media relations questions.