Getting It Right: Some Do’s and Don’ts of Working With the Media — Part 1

So we all want our stories to be seen in relevant and influential media, on a consistent basis.  But before that ideal and lovely morning dawns, there is much to be done and done correctly. Here’s a ready-reckoner which should help in achieving the twin goals of good stories and consistent visibility for the client.

Stick to these tips and hopefully, with a little bit of effort success should be yours.  

The Do’s:

  • Being confident, not cocksure – No one likes a cocky person who’s trying to prove that she/he is supremely confident. Remember, the media is supposed to know everything, so even if you know more don’t be very in-your-face about it.    


  • Check if it’s a good time to talk – the media you talk to isn’t sitting free to take YOUR call and may have many other stories to chase ; also launching into a monologue may actually lessen your chances of getting the journalist interested. Being presumptuous is not a good thing and conveys the wrong attitude.    


  • Be friendly, not fawning – we need to recognize and know that its not flattery, but a judicious mix of a compelling story or reason, coupled with a smart and relevant pitch that helps convert. A friendly demeanor will go a long way and speak volumes of the confidence that one has.   


  • Be well equipped with your knowledge and have a crisp pitch ready– you know your client’s unique selling points (USPs)  the best, as you work with them day in and day out. So be ready with the relevant facts, figures and all USPs as you will get very little time with journalist. Pitching swiftly and efficiently will help win the day.    


  • Explain technical points in simple language – we tend to jargonize unnecessarily, with the notion in our head that sounding complex and making a point with lots of gobbledygook makes for an informed PR professional or an instant story. Like Maggi noodles, it most likely makes for instant dustbin. Most journalists, even if they don’t know what they’re talking about, will feign familiarity so – keep it simple stupid (KISS). It goes a long way in making your pitch focused, effective and to the point. 


  • Be measured and calm – just because your team leader or client may be harassing you on seeing something in print, don’t let that affect your exchange with the journalist. Hurry makes curry and someone who is frazzled will end up delivering results that are also indifferent and questionable. A calm demeanor will always serve one well and result in an effective and measured outlook.     


  • Handle irate or unfriendly journalists with an even calmer tone – this is definitely challenging and one needs to possess oodles of patience. Agreeing with the journalist is not the only way to makes things okay, but also, pointing out and reasoning logically will probably work better.  


  • Count to a hundred in your head – it’s extremely important to be coherent and have a script on what you have to say, else it may not make sense and nobody goes anywhere. Also an overly verbose pitch will possibly spoil your chances, therefore may brevity be your best friend.


  • Follow up your conversation with a mail – we often tend to speak to a media person on the phone and think that the conversation was enough. Follow it up with a mail, as there may be many reasons for the journalist not to act on the basis of just a conversation and forget or ignore the call.  In case one is reasonably confident that a mail is not required, confirm that with the journalist.  


  • Do suggest and check when it’s convenient to meet – Media relations must not slide into phone PR, as that’s just what one should not be doing. We tend to find many and multiple reasons to not go and meet the media, as other than being plain scared – clients and documentation are also usual suspects   


  • Remember it works only if the journalists feel it gives them a viable and readymade outline that their editors will buy – rather than a PR plug. It’s far too obvious and there are too many questions on why don’t you just advertise? Also a viable story has a longer shelf life and can be milked many times over with different angles.     


  • Smart positioning as well as creatively adding some bits can be useful in turning around sometimes boring and at times not so newsy information, into stories – this comes with experience and one needs to combine that with skill 


A final tip: Keep in mind that all this may not always be possible, as journalists are often hard pressed for time, so PRIORITIZE!

Written by Aseem Bhargava for Image Management

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