Staying away from a journalist's dark side

Before I start with the perils of a journalist’s Dark Side, why would you want to be on a journalist’s Good Side?

 Knowing and talking to journalists can help you, your team and your company create great editorial coverage. Frankly, positive editorial coverage is like having the Force with you.

 It can

 ·         Build awareness of your company, your work and efforts

·         Help recruitment, retention and engagement

·         And help your career, giving you more clout so people know your areas of expertise.

 In fact, I had a client who once walked into a room of strangers, yet the people felt they already knew him because of his media presence.

 And the fact remains that if a journalist is writing about you, your work and knowledge, it’s far more convincing than say, a paid-for advert.

 Editorial coverage is, simply put, extremely persuasive for your audience, which is why so many people court journalists’ attention – and journalists are well aware of it.

 So my guidance for you?

Do your homework when speaking to a journalist.

 You’ll feel safer knowing that a journalists’ work is educational and aligns to your goals.

 ·         What sort of things does a particular journalist write about?

·         Is the publication educational or gossip-y?

·         Are there internal sensitivities that mean you shouldn’t talk right now?

·         Work with your corporate communication team or PR agency to ensure messages are on point.


Why is the journalist’s dark side a problem?

 In our market, it’s not as though you’ll find yourself in a Piers Morgan style interview where there is open hostility. However, if an HR is perceived to be rude, untrustworthy, unreliable or unnecessarily pedantic, chances are they’ll struggle to get future coverage. Good relationships are key.


A few simple rules to keep a journalist on your side:

 ·         Don’t ask to approve the article before publication. I’ve written about this here.

·         Don’t sell or push anything. They want your knowledge and experience.

·         Don’t impose restrictions.

·         If you don’t know the answer, say so, and then try to find out.

·         If you promise something, deliver it.

·         Don’t use ‘off the record’. If something is sensitive, don’t talk about it.


By working with journalists in a positive way, they’ll know they can come back to you for future editorial comment, helping your good reputation spread through the industry.


What do journalists want to know?

  •  ·You had an issue and you’ve solved it

  • You’ve got knowledge that will help others and you can share it

  • You’re clear in what you want to say (having 3 key points helps)

  • You can provide observations, examples and advice

  • You talk clearly, making sense of an issue.

  • Context. How the HR problem/programme/scheme fits into the the context of the organisation, its strategy and a wider political/social landscape.


When I was preparing for the DisruptHR speaking session earlier in the year, I spoke with several journalists about what they like about talking to HR people.

The over-riding response was that they like expertise and knowledge about issues - so be one of those people - a good, trusted source for a journalist. Know your expertise and how that can help others.


About PR in HR

We’ve been working in HR and workplace communications for nearly 25 years, raising brand awareness so companies stay top of mind with their audiences. If we can help with your communications, please get in touch.



Kay Phelps