Media Relations Do’s and Don’ts

Posted on 24 July 2011

This is a slightly revised version of my article titled “Media Relations – Some Do’s and Don’ts”, which I originally published on the “Articles” page of my website several years ago. I’ve used it as a handout many times in workshops I’ve taught. It’s based on my 30+ years of experience writing media releases and dealing with media people, and also on my experience as the Listings Editor in the Features Department at the “South China Morning Post” newspaper in Hong Kong – I worked there from 1996 to 2002, and I received lots of media releases, emails and phone calls from desperate PR people.

A list of tips on how to get media coverage (and how not to alienate journalists).


  • Do your homework to find out: the appropriate journalists’ names and titles; the correct name of the publication/show; the style/tone of the publication/show; what kind of images they need, in what format; the deadlines.
  • Give a contact name and number so journalists can contact someone for further information.
  • Tell an interesting, newsworthy story – the journalist is always asking: “WIIFM?” (What’s in it for me – and my audience?).
  • Answer the following questions in your publicity material: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How Much? What language is the event in? How do I get a ticket/buy the product/offer to volunteer?
  • Put it in writing – typed rather than hand-written.
  • Talk to the person who can say YES.
  • Answer media enquiries promptly – if you’re the designated media contact person and you don’t know the answer to a question, promise to find out and call back rather than telling a journalist to call someone else.
  • Label all photographs clearly.
  • Try to understand that there are hundreds of organisations out there that want free publicity at least as much as you do, and that a given media organisation may not be able to give free publicity to all of them, every week.
  • Try to understand that journalists run stories as a service to their readers/viewers/ listeners, not as a favour to you.
  • Create and maintain your own media list that’s relevant to your organisation.
  • Say “Thank you”.


  • Tell the journalist how to do his/her job – let him/her decide where, when and how to run the story.
  • Try to tell the whole story over the phone – put it in writing.
  • Beg for coverage or plead that you deserve/need it.
  • Impose on an actual or imagined friendship by contacting a journalist you know personally at his/her home to lobby for coverage – that’s not appropriate.
  • Ask when your story/event will be featured – things often change at the last minute, so journalists prefer not to make absolute promises.
  • Ask for the right to approve an article about your organisation before it is published – the media organisation retains editorial privilege.
  • Attempt to apply pressure on a journalist by saying: “We’ve booked an ad so please list our event”, or “We’ve booked an ad so please make your article about us positive”, or “If you promise to run a positive story about us then we’ll book an ad.” It just doesn’t work like that. In reputable media organisations, the advertising and editorial departments are quite separate.
  • Pin all your publicity hopes on just one journalist/interview/article – there are no guarantees, so send your information to every relevant journalist.
  • Ask the journalist to send you a copy of the article – buy the paper/magazine!
  • Expect journalists to check your organisation’s website every week for your latest news (that’s “pull” marketing) – they don’t have time. If you want free publicity, it’s YOUR responsibility to send the information to the relevant people (that’s “push” marketing).
  • Complain if your story doesn’t get covered exactly when and how you wanted it – if you want your event/story to be covered exactly the way you prescribe, on the exact days you determine, that’s called advertising, and you have to pay for it.
  • Say “No comment” – it looks like you’re hiding something.
  • Send your media release to one journalist and expect him/her to copy it and distribute it for you to other journalists in the same organisation.

See also my blog post, “How to Write a Media Release in One Easy Lesson”.

Do you have any questions or comments about media relations?

© Kay Ross

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