Let’s hope you have this dilemma to ponder. Scenario 1: You pitch an idea to the media, a reporter is interested, interviews you, and produces a perfect story. How should you thank the reporter?
Let’s hope you don’t have this problem. Scenario 2: Once you review the story, you find a few factual errors that could impact your business. What’s the best way to get them corrected?
We asked reporters and editors at various news outlets to address both scenarios. Here are their recommendations.
Mark Mooney, ABCNews.com
1. “If you want to develop a continuing relationship with the reporter for future stories or to become a source for him or her, definitely send a short e-mail. Something along the lines of ‘Saw your story, thought you did a nice job.’”
2. “If there is a factual mistake in the story, you have every right to ask for clarification. But don’t critique the writing style. Don’t quibble with minor details. The reporter won’t want to deal with you anymore. You want a professional relationship with the person. News has a short shelf life. You want to respond before the story goes into the archives, and it goes into the archives within hours.”
Ellen Wulfhorst, Reuters
1. “Definitely thank the reporter via e-mail. Calling is too time consuming.”
2. “If there are mistakes, call the reporter and be nice. Don’t be too demanding. See if you can figure out what went wrong and how you can fix it together.”
Mary Mann, AOL’s Patch.com
1. “Let the reporter know that you saw the story and you appreciate the coverage. Don’t go overboard and start sending product samples; you don’t want to make it seem like a payoff. But do let him or her know if you’ve printed and framed the story or posted it to your Facebook page, etc. This lets the reporter know that the story will get a lot of views and generate traffic to the site (if it is online media). The reporter will also know that you are accessible and could be used as a source for future articles.”
2. “First, you can cut down on potential errors or mistakes by having an updated Web site or printed materials available to reporters. The materials should describe your business, your products, yourself. The reporter can refer to them as he or she writes up the story and is less likely to make spelling mistakes or leave out a business partner.
“Second, if they’ve made a mistake, consider how big it is before contacting the reporter. If your contact information is wrong, then that should be corrected. If the reporter refers to your pet dog as Fluffy instead of Scruffy, this may not be so important. You don’t want to micromanage the article. It could create an adverse situation, and the reporter will not be interested in using you as a source in the future. Also, remember they are not your PR consultant. And if you want to buy advertising, that’s another issue. Editorial is not advertorial.”
Ellen Tumposky, Editor and Reporter in New York City
1. “It’s fine to send an e-mail thanking the reporter, but don’t be too effusive; reporters don’t like to feel they are writing to please publicists. Avoid giving the reporter warm thanks in public for the same reason.”
2. “If there are small mistakes in the story, e-mail the reporter and point them out politely. If it’s a serious error, get on the phone right away, and don’t feel the need to be overly nice.”
The consensus among the experts: If you’d like to maintain a relationship with the reporter, it’s best to exercise courtesy, and restraint, with a brief thank-you e-mail. If you spot factual errors in the story, you should politely, and quickly, request a correction.
In her 16 years as a PR professional, Barbara Goldberg has helped clients in health care, alternative energy, and the performing arts tell their stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS News, ABCNews.com, and many other media outlets.