9 Easy Tips for Talking to the Press

Jay Croft, Atlanta, writer, newspaper, Journal-Constitution, Cox Enterprises, storytelling, corporate communications, content, gay, pop culture, movies, music, TV, Poncey-Highland, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, who is a good writer in Atlanta, public relations, marketing, social media expert

As a former journalist, I’m sometimes asked for advice about speaking with reporters. Just this week, for instance, I addressed a group of healthcare professionals who want to get quoted in the press and to raise their media profile as experts.

They’d never been interviewed before, and they wanted my advice for what to do when they’re connected with a reporter.

This has come up frequently in my experience in corporate communications, as well, and in digital and social media. I’m always happy to have these interactions and to share a few tips, including these.

1. DON’T start the conversation by saying, “What’s your angle?” It’s defensive and somewhat insulting. Better to say something like this: “I’m happy to help if I can. What’s the story you’re working on?”

2. DO know who’s calling. Reporters are not investors or analysts — they don’t have time or interest in the James Michener version of the topic. And a journalist from, say, a trade publication might be seeking a different level of depth than your local daily.

3. DO have two or three key points sketched out in advance of the interview. It’ll help you stay on track and to keep your responses short, simple and quotable. That will increase your chances of making it into the story, whether it’s in print, online or for broadcast.

4. DO humanize the story. Reporters often need real examples to bring stories to life. Make it easy on them with credible, compelling people and contact information.

5. DON’T think you have to have an answer for everything. If you don’t know, or if you’re uncomfortable discussing something that might be outside your scope, just say something like, “I’ll have to look into that and call you back. When is your deadline?”

6. DO return the call – on time. Reporters are often busy and stressed out – especially today when newsrooms have fewer staff members than ever. You can establish a good relationship by doing what you say you’re going to do, and by honoring basic courtesy like this.

7. DON’T ask to see the story before it’s printed or airs. Better to say, “Feel free to call me back or email me if you have any questions later.” That way, a reporter will feel confident fact-checking if he or she needs to.

8. DO pitch your own ideas for follow-ups and offer yourself as an ongoing resource to the reporter. A good one always wants to meet smart, savvy people on their beats – not just when they need a quick quote.

9. DON’T lie. Seriously.

How about you? Any questions or suggestions? Let me know!

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