How to talk to the media
Have PR’s forgotten to how to speak to journalists? The digital era means that many of us over rely on the keyboard for communication – sending emails, texts and tweets. So is it any surprise that anyone entering the industry has to learn how to talk to the media? I’m often asked to media train press officers and junior executives and here are some of the tips that work:
1. Be professional
Most journalists that I know are a little uncomfortable with over familiarity. Some find it insincere and false. So, unless you know the journalist (in which case it’s fine to ask ‘How was your holiday?’) keep your chatter focused on the purpose. A simple ‘I have a story idea that I think might work for you…’ is fine.
2. Cut the bullshit
We all know what it sound like to receive a sales call littered with corporate, sales speak and when translated into a PR pitch it can sound like, “Our company has a ground breaking announcement for immediate release. Following three years of concept development, this unique product promises to revolutionise the way internet users conduct online research.”
So cut the marketing speak and explain what the real story is in clear, simple words, “Company x is launching a new browser to challenge Google.”
3. Be transparent and build trust
Good media relations is based on two way dialogue where both parties gain and this can best be achieved by being transparent and building trust. At a recent CIPR marcomms event, Stephen Lepitak, news editor of The Drum said: “I’m under huge pressure to get the story online before anyone else does so I appreciate transparency from PRs. If you’ve given the story out to others or can’t give me an exclusive, then tell me.”
4. Beware ‘off the record’
It is generally assumed that there is no such thing as ‘off the record’ as anything told to a journalist can be reported. But it is not that simple as this article explains and sometimes a PR may decide to willingly reveal information that they do not want attributed. Journalists are under pressure to get a different scoop and know how to ask questions to get to the bottom of an issue. I’ve had clients who thought the interview was over when the journalist put away their notepad, only for a last question to be slipping in casually at the end with the potential to undermine the story being told. So, if in doubt assume everything said is ‘on record’.
5. Consider context
When pitching a PR story, explain the broader context and significance of the news you are sharing. Successful editorial coverage often comes about when you can put your story into the news by linking it to the current news agenda, rather than making your story the news as so many PR stories are ‘soft’ news. So before you pick up the phone to talk to the media – do a little research beforehand.
The Media Spamming Charter, prepared by PRCA, CIPR and IRS with NUS approval is really useful.
I cover the topic of talking to the media in my Media Relations PR courses.
If you’d like to find out more please do get in touch with me.