Media hoohah: checking copy before publication

There’s been a bit of a to-do in the media over the last few days, where journalism and editorial control have come into the spotlight. It seems that Clare Baldwin took part in an article for Saga magazine and it’s claimed by the journalist that the article was re-written in parts.

It’s hard to know what went on behind the scenes, but from time to time, we are asked ‘Can I check the article before it gets published?

Ultimately, those that ask don’t want to get bitten on the bum with any misconstrued words. I totally understand that. And some would like to dabble, changing any bits they don’t feel read quite right.

Should contributors get this opportunity? An unequivocal no, in my book. If every contributor to every article had this opportunity, then we’d all end up reading vanilla.

For us, in the HR market, we are fortunate. HR media is not sensationalist. It’s educational and advisory. That alone makes it easier to guide our clients (and their customers). 

Even so, at the end of the day, good media relations is built on trust and knowing the publication and individual journalists. There are some publications beyond our market where I’d guide people to be extremely cautious.

So my advice if you’re a contributor talking to a journalist? 

·      Understand what the journalist is trying to find out.

·      Match this to the key things you want to convey. This list shouldn’t be exhaustive.

·      Be awake and aware.

·      Think of it in terms of talking to a new customer - be respectful and advisory (Saying this, don’t try and sell or push a product or solution to a journalist, not even once).

·      Provide context and understanding. You know things the journalist doesn’t; the journalist wants to convey interesting things to their readers.

·      If you prefer, ask to take part in an email Q&A. Some journalists are happy with written answers.

·      Don’t give away company – or any - secrets. Don't go to the ‘this is embargoed’ conversation. Just don’t say it if it’s not meant to be public knowledge.

·      Be respectful of your personal brand, the company brand – and even competitor brands.

Have we, or one of our clients, been burned? No. Will we? It’s a potential. But in 20+ years of doing this, that’s testament to our HR market and understanding what both journalists and clients need.

Media relations is not like advertising where you’re partly buying message control.  

But there is a special kind of authority. You’re mentioned because of merit, because of knowledge and experience.  

And that is a win-win for all.


Kay PhelpsComment