Working with the Media

A Quick-Reference Guide

Make a friend of the reporter. Remember that the reporter is only a conduit through which you can get your message to possibly millions of people.

Reporters’ questions are your opportunity to educate. Formulate your answer before speaking. You don’t have to answer questions immediately. If an interview is taped and you stumble, ask if you can start over.

Make your answer relevant to the question. Don’t try to dazzle a reporter with fancy footwork; but have one or two major ideas or facts you want to get across, and get them in at the earliest opportunity.

Be honest and as straightforward as possible. Look at each question from the public’s point of view – and relate your answers to the public.

Interviewers like colorful language and clear examples – but keep it simple and conversational. Avoid abbreviations, acronyms and initials.

If a reporter interrupts before you finish your response – pause, let the reporter finish, then continue your answer. Be professional even when the media seem aggressive or questions seem silly. Don’t be badgered or harassed. On the other hand, if a reporter consistently interrupts, there may be a reason. Don’t over-talk, and don’t run off with the interview.

If a reporter asks several questions at once, you might reply; “You’ve asked several questions there. Let me respond to your main point first…”

Always try to be friendly – and smile when appropriate. Remember you’re talking to a lot of people, and you want them on your side.

Don’t let a reporter put words in your mouth. Don’t repeat a reporter’s “buzz words” unless you can do it to your advantage.

If a reporter asks a question “off the record,” remember that anything you say can be used — and probably will be.

Don’t feel obligated to accept the reporter’s facts and figures. Don’t answer hypothetical questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask a reporter to repeat a question.

Relax and enjoy yourself. It’s really not that hard.

Writing a Press Release

Here’s a brief primer on writing press releases. First of all, a press release is like a resume. The idea is to get the newspaper, radio or TV station’s attention. Don’t expect you release to be printed or aired verbatim. Your release will probably be used a source of information for a story written by a reporter. So when you get the call from the reporter, be prepared. If you don’t answer the call, call the reporter back promptly. Don’t expect to be interviewed in person, so hone your telephone skills

Some points on format:

1. Keep it to 1-2 pages maximum (400-500 words)

2. Use the inverted pyramid style of writing. That means start talking about the important stuff first. Writing a press s release is not like writing an essay or term paper!!

3. Write a strong lead (first paragraph) Include answers to the “5Ws & H” (who, what, when, where, why, how)

4. You release must be typewritten, double spaced, using only one side of the sheet.

5. Put -more- at bottom and a slug (headline) on the top of subsequent pages. Use -30- or ### at the end of the release.

It is very important to include:

• A contact name and phone number, who can be immediately available for follow-up inquiries

• A slug (short headline or identifier)

• The date

Some tips on writing:

√ Make your key points in the first or second paragraph.

√ Use quotes to incorporate opinion, subjective ideas, explain rationale for actions. Avoid trite quotes, purge cliches.

√ Use clear, concise, vivid language

√ Sentences should not exceed 15 words; paragraphs should not exceed 30 words or four typewritten lines

√ Check for proper grammar, spelling, punctuation

√ Provide neat, clean copy

√ Distribute on a timely basis and meet deadlines. Don’t send a release in the late afternnoon and expected to be printed the next day.

√ Most newspapers prefer releases to be send in the body of an email message.

√ Proof, proof, poof!

More to Read

Talk to Reporters

How to Ace a Radio Interview

Getting the Press to Cover Your Campaign

No Turtles

Documents (PDF)

Simple Style Guide

Writing a New Release

Working with the Media