the truth about the newsroom – straight-up!

[tweetmeme source=”storylinePR” only_single=false]WARNING: What follows is a harsh reality that may offend some readers.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Ask reporters what they want from pitch to coverage – their top-ten list might look something like this:

  1. Do your homework. Know exactly what I do and do not cover. Don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours.
  2. When you pitch, show me you have taken the time to find out what I’m interested in and compose a note meant to appeal to me.
  3. Please be accessible once you pitch your story. Your marketing manager is not a suitable substitute.
  4. Return my phone call – even if you’re just calling to tell me you don’t know the answers to my questions! I work to a deadline.
  5. Make it easy for me to cover your story – send me multimedia that will add to your news.
  6. “Speak my language.” Don’t talk in jargon or industry-speak. I know you’re smart – that’s why I’m interviewing you. If I don’t understand you, then I can’t explain it to my readers, (listeners / viewers)
  7. Give me a quote to punch up my story. And remember, nothing is off the record – so please don’t tell me what I can and cannot use.
  8. It’s OK to follow up – but please don’t call to ask me if I received the press release you just sent. I have them by the hundreds in my inbox… and yours was which one exactly? When you do follow up, pitch your idea in 30 seconds or less and add some value to the contents of the release. Oh, and please don’t call me when I’m filing my stories. One word… “Deadline”
  9. I get that you want coverage, otherwise you wouldn’t be contacting me, but don’t send your news release to three other reporters I work with too! What’s worse is if I find out you pitched the same story to every media outlet in the city – I’ll kill the story.
  10. Don’t ask me why I’m not running with your story. I’m answerable only to my editor. It’s likely because it lacked real substance and news value. I report news. Period.

What reporters really want is usually pretty simple. They want their calls returned, a quote for their story and they want to do their job and go home.   Read more…

how to tell stories for print and broadcast media

[tweetmeme source=”storylinePR” only_single=false]Once you have told your story in a release and you have been successful in securing an interview, telling the story to a journalist all of a sudden becomes intimidating for most.  It’s natural… it’s the fear of the unknown – so I have created some quick tips on interviews by media type.  These tips have been published in earlier posts separately, but thought I would string them all together into one post for ease of reference and to help readers understand how to tell their story for print and broadcast media.  Let’s start with…   

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build a bridge and ace your media interview

I’ve heard many horror stories over the years from people who have been interviewed by the media, initially excited by the opportunity, but then surprised to see how their quotes are used or the information they provided is represented.  If a reporter calls you out of the blue to do a story – chances are, they already have a story idea in mind and are looking for quotes and additional facts to support their story.  If you do get such a call, ask if you can call the reporter back in 30 minutes… you’ll need time to prepare your key messages.  Before you hang up, be sure to get the answers to the following six questions.  They will help determine the context of interview.

  1. Which media outlet are you working for?
  2. What’s your deadline?
  3. What’s the angle for your story?
  4. Have you reported on this kind of story before?
  5. Who else are you interviewing for the story?
  6. What can I do to help you with this story?

With the answers to these questions, you will know what kind of story the reporter is working on and can anticipate what you’ll be asked.  Prepare what you are going to say, and just as equally important… be prepared on how you are going to deliver it.

When you call back, (and DO call back), don’t just wait for the reporter to ask his or her questions, but rather, turn it into a conversation.  Try leading off the interview with your key message – perhaps something like… “Before we get started, let me tell you about what we’re doing here at XYZ and why we’re so excited…”

When you feel the interview is taking a slight turn from where you anticipated or want it to go, build a bridge.  Bridges allow you to take charge of the interview and provide the perfect opportunity to take the media conversation back to your key messages and the story you want to share. When speaking to a reporter, use creative bridges that will help transition into your key messages such as:

  •  Another thing (readers/listeners) would be interested in knowing is10635283_thl
  • Building on that point…
  • At the end of the day, what this is all about is…
  • Now, having said that…
  • It’s also worth noting that…
  • What’s important to keep in mind here is…
  • Looking at the big picture…

If you’re asked a tough question, answer it to the best of your abilities and then transition to your key message. If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, explain why (“I don’t know, that’s confidential, I’m not going to speak on someone else’s behalf”) and then say “now, what I can tell you is…” and transition to back your key message. 

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? I’m not saying media interviews are easy, but with practice and does become easier.  The media is not the enemy. Reporters are not to be feared with hidden agendas. They have a job to do and so do you. When you know upfront what to expect and can stay focused on delivering your key messages with the use of effective bridges and transitions, you will ace your interview and may be pleasantly surprised when you see / hear your name in print or on the air.

interview quick tips – part 4

Can we talk? TV and radio talk shows

A great opportunity to raise your profile, talk shows are always looking for dynamic guests who are informative and entertaining and can keep audiences tuned in.

3 talk show formats (you’ll know ahead of time which one you’re doing):

  1. You’re it. You’re the only guest talking with the show’s host. If it’s a good news story, you’ll be on the same page. If you’re talking about an issue, you may be taking opposite sides and debating.
  2. You’re part of a panel with other guests who will likely have different points of view. The host will play moderator and provoke debate if there’s a lull.
  3. You’re taking calls from listeners and viewers.

Talk shows are usually broadcast live to air.  Think of a talk show appearance as a conversation rather than a sermon. Everyone likes to eavesdrop on a conversation. No one likes to be lectured to.

If you get into a debate….always take the moral high ground and stay on the right side of an issue. Calmly state your key points and back them up with facts. Don’t respond to hostility, don’t get flustered and don’t take any of it personally.

interview quick tips – part 3 – the right tips

Say it with pictures – television interviews

  • Deadlines are usually morning, noon and afternoon.
  • Brief stories – 60 or 90 seconds, with 20-second soundbites.
  • Strong visuals are key to TV news. Show people doing things and have interesting things going on in the background.
  • Interviews are usually taped on location and then edited (rarely live).
  • Talk with the reporter and ignore the camera.
  • Viewers are both watching and listening to your interview so pay attention to your body language.


TV interviews – the right tips:

  • Dress right: blue / gray best, avoid bright colours or stripes
  •  Sit right: straight in the chair, lean slightly forward
  • Stand right: straight with your feet shoulder width apart, one foot slightly ahead of the other, don’t rock
  • Move right: talk with your head, shoulders, hands, use gestures to reinforce your key points
  • Emote right: expression should match what you’re saying
  • Look right: look the reporter, not the camera
  • Talk right: short, simple and lead with your strongest messages, assume the microphone is always on
  • Leave right: no heavy sighs of relief, grimaces or bolting for the door.

now what? 5 quick tips for first time media attention

It’s the morning following the onslaught of news releases that you sent off to the media.  You start your usual morning routine… pour your coffee, open up your notebook, and check your email / voicemail.  To both your horror and delight, the media is actually interested in your release and wants to write a story.  If you have never received media attention before, you may be asking yourself, “Now What?”  Maybe even panic has taken over.  The first thing you need to do is relax.  Reporters have a job to do – and so do you.  If you keep this in perspective, everything will run smoothly.  


Here are my top five tips I give all my clients who are new to dealing with media inquiries.  


  1. Know the reporter’s story needs. Make sure that you have obtained in advance the parameters of the interview so that you can be prepared and answer their queries succinctly.
  2. Do your homework – Speak to the target audience of the publication.  It will pay off in the long run.
  3. Prepare three or four points you want to make in advance and deliver your key messages. 
  4. Use clear language and avoid jargon. Spell it out for the reporter – make their job easy – they will love you for it.
  5. Practice short, catchy sentences involving your main points that the writer could pick up easily as quotes for the story.   


Follow these quick tips and with each interview, you will build confidence and more importantly, a rapport with reporters for future media opportunities.