10 things business people should know about dealing with the media

6. Don’t be offended when you are cut off

Allow journalists to control the interview. Very often journalists might have to cut you off from what you are saying as they know it will not be the central topic of their article, and do not want to waste your time or theirs.

7. Request questions prior to the interview

While most journalists might not want to send you the interview questions in advance to avoid getting prepared PR answers, it’s a good idea to ask that a journalist sends you a guideline to what will be asked. This allows you to not only do your research and prepare answers, but also helps you understand what a journalist is looking for in an interview.

8. Keep it real, don’t exaggerate

If there have been complaints from customers, and you say that all customers are happy with your service, then don’t be surprised when a journalist writes the following:

“While Joe Soap said that everyone loves their service, a quick online search showed that this was not the case and there have been a number of complaints concerning their service delivery.”

Keep it real and avoid exaggerated statements like “Africa’s favourite company”. Save it for the billboards. Remember that a journalist’s loyalty is to his or her readers. If a journalist discovers you are lying even slightly, then they might think that it is their duty to tell their readers this.

9. Never pay a journalist for coverage

This should not require any explanation but unfortunately it can be a common practice in Africa. Journalists’ loyalty should be to their target audience, and anything that messes with that can undermine the vital role that journalism plays in society. From a business perspective, if you are caught bribing a journalist, you can do considerable damage to your reputation. No one likes a bribed journalist and no one trusts someone who bribes a journalist.

However, with editorial budgets being small, many companies often pay for the transport and accommodation of the media to attend an event. And this is where the line gets blurry. It is important to note that paying the expenses for a journalist to attend an event should never come with strings attached. You do not have a say in what is reported, or even whether the event is covered at all.

10. Don’t demand a final say in the published article

A lot of companies and sources ask to see the final piece before it is published. Journalists, particularly in the online space, usually don’t have time to email an article to be checked, edited and approved, and then wait for it to be sent back. In some cases, when reporting on a particularly complex topic, a journalist might offer to do this so that you can check facts. However, you should then only check facts and quotes. And if you are allowed to see the article beforehand, make it quick. Stick to, and respect, the deadline that a journalist gives you.

Remember, before an article is published, it usually goes through a number of people. In large publications an article will be written by a journalist, edited by a section editor, edited by a sub-editor and then approved by the overall editor. Journalists don’t always get a say in what the final piece looks like.