Media 101: How to talk to journalists?

You just started your business and after some time achieved considerable success. Now you want the whole world to know that you have exciting news worth spreading. So, what do you do? How do you contact the media? And what do you do if they contact you? Here are some useful tips on how to treat media and talk to a journalist. It is not easy, but having a good relationship with media is key to making your business more visible.

Don’t insist on authorization, it is not a duty. From the moment you give your material to the journalists it’s out of your control. Don’t assume that you have a right to be a proof-reader of the article. Authorization is not a duty. Especially in daily media there is no time for it.

Some journalist provide the first version of their articles to fact control. If they write about the field they are not familiar with they like to have their work checked to be sure that interpretation of the information is correct. If you will be asked to control the factual point of view don’t correct the grammar and style - journalist could feel offended. 

Don´t be bossy. Don’t insist on your formulations. You can talk too complicated for the target audience. It is normal that written quotes of the people are not exactly the same as they were told because a) the written language is different from the spoken language b) you may use too much technicalities that need to be translated to the mainstream audience. 

Don’t push journalist to write about everything that seems to be important for you: not everything is attractive for the audience of a particular media. And moreover – media can´t publish about you every day.

Don’t push journalist to tell you when the material will be published – in many cases they don’t know as it is up to their editor-in-chief that often doesn’t tell them. Once they finish one piece of work they continue creating another one, often in a stressful tempo. They don’t have the time to answer your calls and emails about where and when the article about you will be published. If you will attack them with these questions next time they won’t contact you to avoid this unpleasantness.  

Talk the same language. Have a pitch understandable to a laic about what you do and why it’s so exciting. Try to come up with a version that can be put to headline with 30 letters. Use examples to make it more imaginable. Explain slang to people out of your field.

Be emphatic. Is there a mistake in published material? Don’t feel touched - journalists work under huge pressure and nobody’s perfect.

Deal with the deadlines - don’t annoy journalist when his or her head is about to explode because of the deadline (daily news have deadlines at evenings, weekly newspapers at weekends and so on).

Be respectful. Say thanks for a good work done. Editors don’t say warm words to colleagues much. The most often think that what journalist hears is, “Why you are so slow with the material? I want to publish it! Why didn’t you get a statement from this person? How is it possible, that competitor has this information earlier than we do?” Be different and appreciate their work even if it is not perfect. 

Be self-reflective. Is there a mistake in the article? It can be also your fault. Journalists often face a lot of criticism because everybody thinks that they understand their work better. Misunderstanding can be also your failure in explaining the topic well. It’s up to you to give journalist as much information as possible and as understandable information as possible. 

Listen to them. Journalist ask other people about them all the time. Be the one that ask also them about themselves and their work. Think about the media relations as normal relationship that stands on reciprocity, dialogue and interest in each other. If you will be friend with a journalist he or she will be more helpful to you.