7 Questions NOT to ask a reporter

7 Questions NOT to ask a reporter

As a PR pro who’s been at this a while, I can tell you it’s no secret that there are some things those in our profession do that completely turn reporters off. Yes, reporters can get cranky with us—but sometimes, if we’re honest with ourselves, we deserve it.

While everyone makes mistakes, it’s always better if we can learn from the experience of others so that we might avoid the same missteps.

With that in mind, here are some of the questions reporters DON’T want to hear:

1. Did you get my email?

It’s safe to assume that, unless your message bounced back to you, the reporter did receive your message. So, don’t ask this question. Rather, if you want to follow up, it’s better to phrase it more like, “I’m following up re: X—please let me know should you have any questions or need anything further.”

2. Something came up—can we reschedule our meeting/call?

The answer is – no.

You were lucky to get a meeting in the first place, so the last thing you want to do is to ask to reschedule. Reporters are busy—and their time is extremely valuable—so do whatever you must to make it work. Just make sure your client is there, on time and ready to go.  

3. Can we review the story before it goes to print?

Again, no. This isn’t the way PR works.

If you want control over the content, buy an ad. With PR, the story is in the reporter’s hands. If you—or your client—are nervous about what the story might say, remember that journalists are trained to write news pieces and that they have editors to review their work.

4. Will you publish the press release exactly as it reads?

The press release is information you provide so that a reporter can write his or her own story. If they print it verbatim, congratulations—you’ve hit the jackpot. However, this isn’t the norm. You should expect the reporter to write a story based on the information you’ve provided. What the story may say is not up to you (see #3).

5. Can you wait for us to get you that customer reference/product sample/image you requested?

No—no, they can’t. If a reporter has asked for something, drop everything and do your best to get it to him or her—fast.

Media opportunities should take priority over almost anything else you’re doing. In fact, you should be ready to provide what they need before they even ask for it. Anticipate what they may want and prepare it in advance. That way, it’s easy to shoot over that additional piece of information quickly, if it’s requested.

6. Can you use this previously published material?

Generally, no. They want fresh material, especially if you’re writing a contributed article. Don’t try to pass off something that’s already been published, unless you’ve made significant changes—or unless you’ve made it crystal clear that this has already been published elsewhere.

7. Can you get back to me by Tuesday? Otherwise, I’ll assume you’re not interested.

This sounds more like a threat than a deadline—and generally speaking, reporters set the deadlines for us (and their editors set the deadlines for them)—not the other way around. If a reporter is interested, it’s safe to assume he or she will respond when ready. Many times, if they like a story pitch, it will be sooner rather than later. But, it’s important to remember, they set the timeframe.

So, try to avoid asking reporters these questions to get a little further toward building a relationship based on trust and respect with your media contacts. Be the kind of PR pro they look forward to hearing from.  

Michelle Messenger Garrett is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience. She works with clients ranging from small businesses to enterprises such as Adobe and HP, assisting them in crafting and carrying out a PR strategy to help them get the word out, get noticed and increase visibility, prospects and sales.
 
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