5 Questions You Should Never Ask a Journalist

Every relationship with a journalist is unique and specific to his or her preferences.  However, no matter the situation, there are certain questions you should NEVER ask media.  But that does not mean you can’t get your message across.  It is all about learning how to say it better.

1. Did you get my news release?

Aside from the fact that this question does nothing but waste media’s time, it could turn out even worse when you get only a simple yes or no response.  Just because a journalist confirms he or she received your news release there is no guarantee he or she will cover your story.

Instead try:  We recently sent you a news release announcing [XYZ company did something newsworthy] and wanted to see if this type of news is of interest to your publication. This does two things:  It provides an opportunity to confirm the journalist received your news and gives you a chance to find out if the journalist is interested in pursuing the story.

2. Since you will not cover my story can I speak with your editor or another journalist?

Even if you have an interesting and excellent story to share, the changing nature of the media business makes it difficult to reach the correct contact 100 percent of the time.  If you feel your story is important or has another angle, do not give up, but don’t be rude to the person you first made contact with.

Instead try:  Thank you for your feedback.  Do you know of anyone else at your publication/station who might have an interest in this story? Not only does this establish you as a resource for future communications, but when you contact the new journalist, you can open with a referral from one of their co-workers.

3.  Will you write a feature article about my product/service/company?  When?

Unless you are launching the next generation iPhone, a journalist needs a relevant and timely context for your company’s story.

Instead try: We noticed several recent articles in your publication focusing on XYZ trend.  Our company president can offer excellent insight as to how that trend is affecting the market and how specifically our company is reacting.  Would you be interested in setting up an interview to learn more? This lets journalist know you are familiar with what they write, understand what is important to their readers and your company can add something new to the story.  Once the interview is scheduled, it is your spokesperson’s job to communicate a compelling story about the company.

4. Can I review that article before it goes to print?

Some media will offer the opportunity to review articles or quotes for accuracy.  If you get the chance, always take it and offer feedback only on content/accuracy – not the journalist’s writing style. However, keep in mind that media coverage is not the same as a paid ad and no one has the right to ask to review and correct a journalist’s work before it is published except the editor.

Instead: Prepare your message in advance and ensure accuracy. If it is a phone interview, develop talking points and keep them in front of you during the interview.  For simple news announcements, triple check news releases and pitch letters for accuracy before distributing to media.

5. Can I get a copy of the story you wrote?

It’s a reporter’s job to write the story, not mail it to you.

Instead try: We are very excited to see the article you wrote.  Can you tell me what issue you anticipate it will appear in so we can pick up a few copies? Often when you approach the question this way, a reporter will offer to send you several copies of the magazine directly or introduce you to a circulation manager who can do the same.

Jennifer Manocchio

After starting her career with Edelman in Chicago, Jennifer joined Sweeney and quickly established herself as an exceptional industry innovator. In 2004, she opened Sweeney’s first full-service office outside of Cleveland and quickly rose through the ranks to become agency president. Jen leads by example and without fear. She has been critical to agency growth throughout the past decade and continues to lead the agency into the future.