In today’s fluid digital media environment, it’s essential for PR pros to be ultra-responsive to reporters.
To win press coverage, you should avail yourself to journalists around-the-clock, to the extent possible, especially if you’re a spokesperson for a large company or client. It’s not called “earned media” for nothing: You must earn it by providing access.
Otherwise, you potentially risk inaccurate information spreading like a California wildfire in the Santa Ana winds. This can cause untold PR damage to the organization you represent, not to mention damaging your own credibility.
Accessibility for journalists pays off in accurate reporting. Thus, it’s vital that you are available to the news media at night, on weekends, during your commute home, on holidays, etc.—not just when it’s convenient for you.
Remember that journalists don’t want to receive voicemails or email bounce backs when they contact you on deadline. Plus, you don’t want your company or client cited in a story as being unreachable or unresponsive, which can hurt their brand image.
Even though the official work day may technically be over at a time certain, members of the news media might still need your help. Reporters depend on you to assist them in getting the story right the first time, before it goes out. Neither side wants to deal with factual errors, corrections and clarifications afterwards.
News editors and producers can have last minute questions or concerns. If so, they turn to the reporter for answers, and the reporter turns to the PR pro for a timely response.
To the contrary, being inaccessible means risking bad publicity going viral, which puts you in PR jeopardy. Therefore, you always need to be ready when reporters call, even at unexpected times.
The media outlet frankly doesn’t care if it’s late in the evening or over a weekend when they contact you. They don’t care about family night in your household, whether the kids are sick, or if your septic tank just overflowed.
Journalists want updated and accurate information when theyneed it, which might be after hours. That’s their job—being accessible and responsive is your job.
If the media gives you the benefit of responding to a story before it goes out, then always take it. Any PR pro would be wise to seize the opportunity to work cooperatively with reporters to ensure factual accuracy, no matter the hour.
Remember, if your job is to foster successful media relations then it’s imperative to provide journalists with a way to reach you at all times. This includes providing personal information to high-impact media outlets, such as your personal mobile phone, home phone, alternate emails, etc.
Do yourself and the media a favor: Be reachable.
David is a strategic communications consultant, freelance writer and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. A native New Yorker, David was a journalist prior to his career of public service. You can also find him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Medium.