1. Reach out in advance. Where a member of the firm has experience and background which might assist reporters as they prepare their stories about a major news event, reporters appreciate knowing that an individual with expertise is willing to speak on the record about that issue to provide substance and direction in the news reporting. We all must keep in mind that most Americans do not have a law degree; therefore, journalists are often very appreciative to have the assistance of someone with such a degree and background which allows them to dissect and explain a current issue (news/ hot-topic) for the general public.
2. Always have something highly relevant to offer. No one likes to have their time wasted, and news journalists are always writing or reporting to a deadline. As Hall of Fame broadcaster Richie Ashburn once said,
"If you don't have something to say, don't say it."
3. Stick to your area of expertise. Simply because you're a lawyer or doctor or other professional, does not mean that you can talk on any subject within your profession. The world is highly specialized, and journalists need accurate and insightful information - not banal generalities.
4. Before offering comment, do your research and your homework in advance. Providing useful and insightful comments to journalists is work, not play. And nothing is worse than being quoted in an article, only to have other more insightful commentators forcefully rebut your statement. This is also a proven way to cut off a valuable relationship with a journalist.
5. Be accessible. Recognize that journalists have deadlines and require a quick turnaround on telephone calls or emails. From a practical perspective, if you are not accessible, journalists will work with professionals who make themselves available for interviews and respect the time-sensitive needs of journalists. If you get a call back from a reporter, be prepared to know their deadline can be within just a few hours. With the internet available at our fingertips, news is being published constantly, meaning, reporters want information as fast as possible vs. "in time for tomorrow's newspaper".
6. Park your ego at the door. If a tiny, 1000 Watt ethnic station asks you for comment, treat them with the same respect and courtesy as you would a national news program. And remember- national news reporters started somewhere, most likely at a small radio station and they do not forget who respected their professionalism as they climbed the journalistic ladder. Finally, always keep them posted on developing issues that pertain to your areas of expertise.
7. Assist the media, even if you aren't going to be quoted. Journalists have a demanding job, particularly because they are expected to be well-versed on a wide variety of topics. Journalists will often call outside sources for background information to better understand an issue or a legal process, and it is important to be willing to assist them even when it is clear that the story will not mention you. As noted above, journalists will not forget the fact that you helped them when it was of no immediate value to you, and they will swing back to you when they need comment for publication.
8. Be uniformly pleasant. If you are interviewed for a television broadcast, thank everyone, not just the on-air reporters. The cameramen, producers, and runners are all working hard, and they appreciate being recognized with a handshake and a genuine "thank you". Ask all of them about their lives and families, as they are often called away from their loved ones and appreciate recognition for their hard work and difficult schedules. Working in the news media business is never a 9 -5 job, so keep in mind that they have a hectic workload that they endure on a daily basis.
9. Always remember that you are not the story-EVER. If you are being interviewed, the purpose is to seek your comment about something much bigger than yourself, and a good journalist can immediately tell when a person being interviewed is more interested in being quoted than in helping the reporter and the reading and/or listening public in understanding the news event. Remember, if you are being interviewed, it is often because of your expertise, so there is no need to boast about yourself - you are already being interviewed for a specific and unique reason.
Don't hold grudges
. The ebb and flow of news reporting will sometimes cause lengthy interviews or promises of interviews to be pushed aside, ignored, or forgotten. In the chaotic contemporary 24/7 news cycle, it is inevitable that interviews will fall to the cutting room floor. This is no one's fault, but is simply a fact of journalistic life, and no one should ever feel disrespected by the fact that it happens from time to time. Everyone has a job to do, so remember that nothing is personal. Breaking news is out of anyone's control.
Stay in touch
. As a final follow-up to Tip #1, there is never harm in reaching back out to a reporter or media personnel post-interview to thank them for their time and offer assistance in their future news stories. When it comes to relationships with the media, there isn't success in being silent - meaning, it's always important to maintain a positive and proactive approach to staying connected with the news media in an effort to assist them in relaying the most accurate news to the public.