How To Give Journalists What They Need – And Avoid Irritating Them

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A big part of the publicity game is attracting the attention of the media and persuading them to interview you.

But what happens when you’ve been successful in getting the media to look your way, only to find yourself wide-eyed, nervous and murmuring, “What now?”

Governors, mayors and assorted movie stars and athletes are accustomed to talking with reporters, so they generally know what to do and what not to do in such encounters.

The average person doesn’t have the same track record, so when they finally land an interview they can unintentionally sabotage their relationship with the reporter before it gets off the ground.

This comes from a mixture of not knowing the media rules of engagement and failing to understand that the interview is really about what the journalist wants – not what you want.

For example, one no-no is to ask to see a reporter’s notes or finished article before the article is published. For a variety of reasons, most reporters won’t agree to such requests – and some of them will be downright insulted and irritated that you asked. So don’t!

Here are a few other tips to help make the interview run more smoothly and to have the journalist singing your praises afterward:

  • Don’t be late. Whether your interview is by phone or in person, be on time! Journalists are on tight deadlines and if you don’t show up on schedule you’re risking that they will move on to another source. Sure, you’re a busy person, too, but you don’t want to leave the journalist waiting. With any luck, you can build a relationship with this person and become a regular source for them on your topic. You don’t want to make a bad first impression!
  • Be prepared to share good information. Journalists are looking for valuable material for their audience – in many cases, solutions to problems – so that’s what you need to give them. Your advice can’t be: “Buy my book and you will learn everything you need to know!” Journalists aren’t interested in selling your book, product or service. They’re interested in the expertise you can provide their audiences – right now!
  • Lean toward short and concise answers. It’s best not to ramble. The journalist doesn’t have time for you to go off on tangents. If you know ahead of time at least generally what the journalist might ask, try to plan succinct answers that will still get your main points across.
  • Follow up with an email to clarify complicated information. Let’s return to that situation of asking a reporter to see their notes or finished article before publication. If you’re concerned the journalist might get something wrong, a better way to handle the situation is to send an email after the interview to sum up and clarify what you said. Be diplomatic. Instead of telling the journalist you were afraid they didn’t grasp what you said, put the onus on yourself by saying you aren’t sure you did a good job of explaining your points so you wanted to provide the information in writing to help the journalist out. How thoughtful of you!

Finally, remember this. Even though it might be a little stressful to be interviewed by a journalist the first time, that journalist came to you because you’re the one who knows the topic. The conversation should be familiar ground for you, so don’t let your nerves get in the way.

Plus, every time you have another interview, you’ll become more confident and an even more valuable source for that journalist to keep coming back to.

And that’s on the record!


P.S. If you’d like professional help getting coverage in the press, or being interviewed on radio and TV, give us a call. We’ve been providing this service to clients for 27 years. We also offer a comprehensive social media marketing program for select clients, where we do it all for you. If you’re interested in our help, please call us at 727-443-7115 Ext. 231. We’d love to hear from you!


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