What NOT to Do When Contacting Media

Public Relations Strategy

You’ve done it.

Your business or organization has a wonderful thing happening and you’ve drafted a news release that you are SURE will attract more attention than you had ever dreamt possible. All you have to do is use the handy Spell Check tool, and then hit send to as many people as possible, right?


There are plenty of things you can do to help your media release generate attention. But perhaps more important than that, there are things you should not do when contacting the media as well.

Here are five to get you started:

1. Don’t just assume that putting out a news release will get covered.

It’s true. Sometimes, BIG news rises to the level of instant coverage via news release. Stuff from Presidents or Governors or major job announcements are examples where this might happen. But don’t just assume that your news floats to the top. Make sure it’s straightforward and to the point, and follow that up with a phone call. The job of an assignment editor is a tough one, and they have a big number of choices to make daily.

2. Don’t play hard to get.

Want media to cover your news or event? Don’t make them chase you. Make someone available to talk on camera or in person if logistically possible, and do it in a place convenient to the media outlet who might want to have the conversation. If you’re holding an event at 7 a.m., 3 hours away from the media outlets you want to cover it, don’t expect anyone to show up.

3. Don’t think that your news release is the only thing they are seeing.

Some assignment editors receive more than a thousand e-mails a day…and in some cases most of them aren’t spam. Understand how busy they are and try to put yourself in their shoes. Would you cover your story? If not,  figure out what to do to make it a little more appealing.

4. Don’t become spam.

If you are a part of a business or organization that sends out news releases with regularity, localize them. For example, if you have a small community service news release focused on Augusta, send it to the weeklies that reach Augusta and the Kennebec Journal. DON’T send it to the entire state.

5. Don’t discount the power of research.

If you’re calling a TV station, don’t mention a reporter’s name who works for another station. If you’re calling a newspaper, don’t say something about an editorial that was run by a competing paper. If you’re calling a radio station, don’t remark on how much you love a different station. The people you reach out to in an effort to cover your story work very hard and have a lot of pride in what they do. You could be making the most innocent of mistakes by trying to make a connection and missing the mark, but you can alleviate that by researching who you are calling before you talk with them. It’s human nature to feel more comfortable with someone who makes a connection and knows what they are talking about.

There are lots of things you can do to write news releases and plan more effectively, and there are plenty more examples of what you should not do. If you have questions, feel free to e-mail me at dan@sutherlandweston.com!