Media relations - checking copy before publication

From time to time, we’re asked ‘Can I check the article before it gets published?

Ultimately, we know the problem, anyone asking doesn’t want to get bitten on the bum with any misconstrued words. I totally understand that. And some would then like to dabble with the journalist’s copy, 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 with ‘their’ article, we’d all end up reading vanilla.

For us, in the HR market, we’re fortunate. HR media is not sensationalist. It’s educational and advisory. That alone makes it easier to guide our clients (and their customers). (Do have a look at my article on what HR Journalists think of HR people, it’s enlightening.)

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 media relations, that’s testament to our HR market and understanding what both journalists and clients need.

Media relations is not like advertising where message control is part of the package.

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

And that’s a win-win for all.

Kay Phelps