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Every startup needs to deal with journalists if they want to ensure any press attention that will improve their brand positioning. At times you have to educate them about what your company does and at other times, you’re trying to score brownie points by getting them to write about you or your company. Then sometimes, the journalist needs a subject matter expert for quotes in a relevant story. It’s not easy talking to a journalist as you could inadvertently say the wrong thing, or lose control of your brand’s story while you tell yours. Here are five tips that would be useful when you’re talking to a journalist.

  1. Don’t wing it – Before you talk to a journalist, always prepare. Never wing it. If you have time before the interview, try to prepare answers to potential questions that you could be asked. If possible, ask the journalist about the focus of the interview so you have an idea of the direction you want to take. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t try to be casual and say whatever comes to your mind. Tell them that you need time and will get back to them.
  2. Be responsive – If a journalist has emailed you and requested for an interview, do respond immediately by writing back to them and confirming the date and time of the interview. Journalists are often very busy and you need to respect their time. Sometimes, a journalist might need to talk to you for a time-sensitive story and if you respond late, it’s a lost opportunity and a reason for the journalist not to contact you the next time.
  3. Don’t be aggressive – A journalist’s job is to get deep into the story and they might ask intrusive questions which in turn could bother you. But it’s never a good idea to display aggressiveness with a journalist. On the contrary, be helpful as far as possible. If you are meeting a journalist in person, then be aware of your body language and the subconscious signals it sends. For a phone interview, be cautious of your language and your tone as it can be misinterpreted.
  4. Don’t lie – This goes without saying but still needs to be said because people don’t realize the far-reaching repercussions that can emerge from lying to a journalist. It can lead to public mistrust and negative brand image and affect consumer confidence in your company. It could potentially derail all your hard work. Instead, navigate the tricky situations that often come up during interviews so you can position your brand image more effectively.
  5. Enhance media relationships – Use the time spent with a journalist to educate them about how your organization works. Providing some solid explanation is a good payoff in the long run as the coverage will often be detailed and accurate, only because you took the time to explain everything.

Building good relationships with journalists is an important step of the PR process. If you win over a journalist with your knowledge and honesty, that relationship will keep giving you returns in the future.