In one of my first jobs as communications director for a school division, I met for coffee with a friend who is a journalist. During our time together, we talked about my ideas for a publicity campaign that involved the students. When we wrapped up, I offered to buy his coffee. His refusal came with an education in the ethics of journalism. No exchange is made for stories or articles. He loved my idea but would not be willing to write about it if I paid him anything. Not even a cup of coffee at 1980’s prices. I was impressed, not only by his values but by his willingness to educate me on how it worked.
Since that day, I have never entertained journalists other than provided beverages and snacks at a media conference as a matter of public courtesy. Media releases are distributed with enough information to attact an enquiry if the content fits with a piece they are working on. As a publisher, I am regularly disappointed by clients who ask for a feature before committing to advertising. It never happens. Either we agree to an advertising contract or I move on.
“I believe the most important thing for the media is to be objective, fair and balanced. We should not report something with preconceptions or prejudice.” Jack Ma, Alibaba
I am regularly offered free treatments in exchange for writing about them. I am not a reviewer. Unless I am a paying customer, there is a part of me that holds back on criticism, constructive or otherwise, if I have received something — anything — in exchange for editorial content.
5 media relations tips
- Deliver a news release with an offer to provide additional information on request.
- Send an email release with the content in the body, not an un-trusted attachment.
- Provide a description with all relevant details and without ad-like hype or flourish.
- Save the exclamation points, upper case and bold for your social media comments.
- Ensure you include your direct contact details and double check the information
BONUS TIP : Never expect an article will be published
Real journalists value original content, fresh information and respectful relationships.
Today, there are plenty of social media opportunities and independent bloggers ready to write about a product or service in exchange for exposure. This is advertising — it is not objective content. It is not news. It is opinion and it is a paid opinion. That is promotion.