5 ways to prevent reporter screwups

Landing coverage won’t do your company any good if the reporter gets the facts wrong. How to make sure reporters tell your story accurately, every time.

Reporting, particularly daily reporting, has always been tough job.

Deadlines are brutal. Training is on the job. Reporters are likely to be English majors rather than finance or marketing majors. Many reporters change jobs often. And now, widespread staffing cutbacks—even at mainstream media outlets like The New York Times—mean that reporters have to do more with less.

The result? Tired, under-trained, overworked reporters mean more mistakes.

For example, one of our clients was quoted in a press release put out by one of his clients. He later saw himself named “managing director” of his client in a news story based on the client’s press release.

Not all errors are so egregious. More often reporters will pull information from other articles—or increasingly, blogs—and recycle information without fact checking the content. They list incorrect websites and spell names incorrectly.

Why does it matter? Because on the Web, mistakes feed on themselves.

Here are five things you can do to ensure accuracy in media coverage about you, your company and your products:

1. Script your press release like a 60-second TV commercial. That means short, to the point, and relevant. Jargon, complexity and self-congratulatory prose breeds confusion.

2. Put all responses in writing. Ask the reporter for written questions before the interview, and respond with specific comments and information by email. That way, even if you do the interview, the core information is in writing. Variation: Send the reporter an email after the interview that lays out the key facts on an “as we discussed” basis.

3. Keep it simple. Make sure all “snapshots” of your company are accurate and busy reporters can easily understand them. Take a look at your company boilerplate and your home page, as that’s where reporters are most likely to grab quick information.

4. Ask for read-backs. Reporters don’t necessarily like this, but ask them to read or email you anything he wants to attribute to you before publication. This lets you check it for accuracy.

5. Pay attention. Always review coverage as soon as it appears, whether online or in print. Ask for an immediate correction and provide written direction on the wording for the correction.

Greg Miller is founder and president of Marketcom PR. A version of this post ran on its Let’s Talk Blog.

Topics: PR


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