PR 101: How to Respond to Media Requests

You’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into building your brand and establishing your business, and it’s finally paying off. You’re turning a healthy profit, your customer base is growing, and you’re attracting attention from industry experts. Congratulations, it’s been a long time coming, but all the stress has been worth it.

You’ve also started receiving media requests from newspaper and magazine journalists for quotes and interviews. This is a big coup, as it means a journalist has seen something newsworthy in your business. While most businesses have a news angle or business updates they can share, it can be hard to pick out the right story and pitch it at the right time. Yet, when it comes to media requests the story is already there, meaning you only have to decide whether it’s relevant to you and your business.

As exciting as this is, there’s a real knack to getting your response right. Journalists put lots of media requests out and are inundated with replies. They also work to tight deadlines. So if you’re not savvy with your response, it may end up on the bottom of the pile.

To give your reply the best chance of being considered over the rest, here are some key points to remember:

Is it relevant?

Read the request fully and make sure it’s relevant to your business before responding. Don’t waste your time trying to make your business fit the query. If you don’t meet all the reporter’s requirements, skip it. The journalist certainly will. Irrelevant responses are the most common complaint from journalists. It’s a sure-fire way to get blacklisted by them.

Be prompt

Assuming everything checks out, once you’re given the brief, be prompt with your response. There’s no surer way to annoy members of the media than taking your sweet old time responding to their request for a comment or an interview. Media requests are very popular, and journalists are often working to tight deadlines. So the sooner you respond, the better. A quick email with a short but relevant answer sent within an hour will put you in a much stronger position than sending an in-depth answer that has taken days to craft.

Be succinct

Less is more when it comes to responding to media requests. Your response should be as concise as possible. Long answers don’t get used, and they can distract from the point you want to make. If you don’t want something to get lost in translation, keep your response simple and clear, so that a translation isn’t necessary.

Answer the question, and nothing else

When a journalist or publication is looking for a source, they know what they need and in what form. If you’re responding, meet their criteria. If you send a response which they don’t find helpful, you may be ignored in the future. You may think you’re doing them a favour by providing them with all sorts of extra information. But if they have to search through a press release or other documents, you’re increasing the amount of work they have to do and reducing the likelihood of your information being used.

Avoid jargon and don’t be salesy

Unless the request has come from a trade publication where readers will understand the ins and outs of your business, avoid jargon, acronyms, and technical language. On the whole, journalists produce stories to inform the general public, not experts in your field. You’re also not going to impress anyone if you send over a page of sales spiel. Keep the information factual and helpful.

Wow them with stats

Using a couple of compelling statistics, a piece of research or other facts to underscore your point, can be a winning strategy, as journalists love empirical evidence to back up their stories. They also add credibility to a story. But be sure to use them wisely and sparingly. You don’t want to bury your message underneath numbers.

Be prepared

Once you’ve sent your response to the journalist, make sure you have additional information prepared. If you’re providing an expert opinion or being interviewed, make sure you or your spokesperson is prepped and available for any follow-up.

Don’t expect to score coverage every time

Journalists get lots of replies and can’t use them all, so don’t be disheartened if they don’t come back to you. Even if you don’t get a reply, there’s a good chance the journalist has made a note of who you are and kept your details on file. They may well come back to you if and when they revisit the subject.

Help is at hand

There’s no precise science to responding to journalist enquiries. Each enquiry, every story and every journalist is different. However, journalists are also people, so a bit of charm, humour and personality can go a long way.

By following the tips above, you’ll stand a good chance of scoring media coverage. Or, if you’d like a PR agent with 25 years’ experience in the industry to respond on your behalf, or want some help crafting a response, get in touch now.

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