How to Deal with the Media

The most effective way to establish a friendly and trustworthy relationship with the media – newspapers, magazines, radio and TV – is through personal contact.


It should be clear whether you need to know the news editor, business editor, sports editor, women’s editor or a reporter dealing in a specialist field.

Don’t feel hesitant about contacting these people for the first time. You’ll find them very helpful, especially if you can offer a good story.

It is important, though, that you can tell them something that is genuinely newsworthy. Try to suggest a fresh approach or novel angle. Remember that most newspapers are very wary of giving free advertising under the guise of editorial copy.

Press Releases

Once you’ve established contacts, your task is much easier. Phone those in your area and explain that you have prepared a press release. Ask if you can bring it in personally at a convenient time. Then you can chat about an individual or exclusive angle, follow-up story or feature or an interview.

If posting releases further afield, add a personal note.

Keep the content of your press release concise, simple and to the point, making sure that you have provided all the important facts and answering any questions that may arise.

Aim for a bright style but forget gushy adjectives, as they’ll be cut out anyway. Don’t repeat the name of the company or brand name of the product in every sentence – it won’t be used.

Unless you’re a literary genius, avoid being too clever. If you’re convinced you’ve hit on the gimmick of the century, go ahead; otherwise its better to play it straight.

Never assume the reporter (or the eventual reader) is as familiar with the subject as you are. Avoid technical jargon. Check your facts carefully, as well as your spelling and grammar.

Put the most important and interesting information in the first paragraph of the press release, supplying additional information in the following paragraphs, and ending with the less essential information. The reason for this is that if the release has to be cut due to lack of space it will often be shortened from the bottom.

Always supply a contact name and telephone number to which queries or requests for supplementary information can be directed.

When including photographs with the release, attach a comprehensive caption identifying the people, objects etc. Always use full names, not initials, in both press release and caption.

It is not necessary to include reams of background material unless specifically requested by a reporter doing an in-depth story.

If you don’t want the press release used before a certain date, mark it clearly "Embargo not to be used before…"

Points to remember:
  • Newspapers with the same circulation area don’t like to carry identical stories, so try to work out different angles if possible.
  • Never say a story is exclusive unless this is strictly true.
  • Never try to dictate what a reporter can or cannot say in a story
  • Be aware of what’s going on in the media by reading newspapers, and watching and listening to the news.
  • Never give the impression you’re trying to bribe or buy a journalist. By all means invite your contact to lunch, but not with the expectation of receiving publicity.
  • Don’t phone repeatedly to ask why your story hasn’t appeared. As part of your follow-up campaign it’s permissible to ask if it’s going to be used, but don’t nag or make threats.
  • Don’t tell a newsperson that your organisation has placed a great deal of advertising in his publications. This won’t (or shouldn’t) have any influence on him or her.
  • If a journalist has given you good publicity, phone and say thank you. Try to be enthusiastic, interested and well informed without being pushy.

Press Conferences

A press conference is a good opportunity for the press to meet the top people in the organisation, but make sure it has a valid news story to offer.

If, for instance, a new piece of equipment is to be demonstrated, then you are justified in gathering a group of news people together. On the other hand, there’s nothing more annoying for a reporter than spending hours at a so-called press conference and leaving without any copy.

If possible, when choosing the date and time, check that it doesn’t clash with other major news events.

Mail or telephone invitations a week or two in advance. Check the day before to make sure who will be attending. The same applies when you’re inviting the media to a social function, the launching of a new product, opening of a new branch, etc. Before the conference, check all equipment lighting, microphones and visual aids thoroughly.

Prepare a press kit containing relevant information and pictures etc. to be distributed as journalists arrive. If you want to issue nametags, make sure you’ve got the names correct.

After the formal proceedings are over, make sure that journalists meet the various people in the organisation.

Ensure the catering is well organised and there is enough for everyone.

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