Managing Media Relationships - How to Speak to Journalists

PR expert in the HR sector, Kay Phelps, shares helpful tips on speaking to journalists about your brand.

Great media relations is built on trust and knowing publications and individual journalists.

Media coverage has a special kind of authority. When you’re mentioned in journalists’ articles it’s because of merit, knowledge and experience. Build that up over time and you become recognised for your knowledge and experience.

So, here’s our advice if you’re talking to a journalist:

1. Research the publication and the journalist. Make sure they tie in with your brand and values. Some publications beyond our market need extra caution.

2. Understand upfront what the journalist will be asking about.

3. Match this to the key things you can convey and will resonate with their readers. Your list shouldn’t be exhaustive – as humans, we tend to remember 3 things.

4. If you prefer, ask to take part in an email Q&A. Some will, some won’t.

5. When you’re on a call (or responding by email), be respectful and advisory.

6. Think of it in terms of talking to a new customer, BUT don’t try and sell or push a product or solution to a journalist, not ever. This is all about expertise and knowledge. Not sales.

7. Help the journalist with context and understanding. You know things the journalist doesn’t; the journalist wants to convey interesting things to their readers.

8. 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.

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

10. Can you see the article before publication? No! For us, in the workplace market, we are fortunate. HR media is usually educational and advisory. But media relations is not like advertising where you’re partly buying message control. 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 workplace and HR market and understanding what both journalists and clients need.

Kay Phelps