Note: This is a continuation in a series on media relations. To start from the beginning, go here


The five guiding principles of working with the media:

  1. Always return calls as soon as possible
  2. Never, ever lie.  Not even a little.
  3. More information is better than less information.
  4. When providing information, always provide context.
  5. There is no “off the record”

Always return media calls as soon as possible

Most often, reporters are working with a same-day deadline of 5 p.m.  Even if you have to have your assistant send a message, do your best to acknowledge media calls.  I find that it is best to respond as soon as possible because it allows you the opportunity to shape the story.  I describe this in more detail later.

Never, ever lie. Not even a little.

Nothing kills trust more than lying to a reporter.  Never, ever lie.  Not even a little.

More information is better than less information.

Providing more information to reporters–as long as it is appropriate to do so–is almost always better than not providing enough.  Reporters often don’t know what they need and ask for the wrong information.  In addition to providing the right information, always add whatever you feel is important.

I recommend this in situations where I feel the reporter is asking the wrong questions.  Try to answer the questions as they are presented to you but politely suggest an alternative question and answer it.  Again, I’ll cover this in detail later.

When providing information, always provide context.

Leave nothing to chance when you are working with a reporter. If they want specific information, send it, but send a cover letter as well, or use “Post It” notes to make the case that some information is more important than the rest.  Sending information blind often leads to it being used out of context.

There is no “off the record”

Very often you will want to provide information to a reporter, but want it to be “off the record.”  Hollywood makes speaking “off the record” glamorous, but in reality, there is no “off the record.”  Consider everything you say to a reporter fair game.  Although there are rules to keep in mind, basically, never say anything to a reporter that you wouldn’t want to see in print.

Tune in tomorrow for the next post in this series.

Media Relations for School and District Leaders: The Five Golden Rules