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Media Relations - Behaviours Unbecoming

By Barbara Florio Graham

Communications consultant Barbara Florio Graham provides us with an excerpt from her book, "Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity" (available from the author at her Web site that highlights what not to do when dealing with the media. Collected over the years at Canada's National Press Club in Ottawa, here's Barbara's compilation of media relations behaviours to be avoided:

· the news release on an important issue which arrives just before deadline
· any print information without the complete name, title (if appropriate) and telephone number of a contact person
· the contact person who is unavailable when telephoned
· telephone calls which are not returned promptly
· contacts who telephone at inappropriate times, and don't bother to ask if it's a good time to call
· telephone callers who don't get immediately to the point
· contacts who think they can dictate (or even suggest) which reporter should cover the story, how it should be treated, the length, placement, etc.
· information which doesn't check out
· gaps in background information, which are not immediately apparent because too much extraneous information was provided, or because it is not organized efficiently
· the subject of an interview who asks to see the story before it goes to print
· the interview subject who insists upon changing the wording of a quote when you call to check
· the interview subject who decides, after the interview, that most of the discussion is off the record
· telephone calls complaining about story placement, angle, etc.
· complaints concerning errors of fact, made to superiors instead of to the reporter, or complaints to the reporter about tiny, insignificant "errors"
· compliments to everyone except the reporter involved (the best compliment is a Letter to the Editor, with a copy to the reporter)
· the nervous interview subject who waves back and forth in front of the microphone (whether on radio or TV), or who touches the microphone and/or cord
· the apparently glib interview subject who suddenly freezes in front of the microphone
· someone who smokes, coughs, or giggles on air
· the person who tries to influence the reporter by bragging about his or her contacts in the community, on the paper, or elsewhere
· the academic, artist, or executive who treats reporters as unfortunate, working class, under-educated slobs
· the individual who asks for tear sheets, copies of audio or video tapes
· the person who attempts to buy favors with lunch, booze, etc.
· the interview subject who decides that, on the basis of a couple of meetings, the reporter is now a personal friend, who can be introduced to others on a first-name basis
· the individual who gives someone else a reporter's home telephone number without first asking for permission

Barbara Florio Graham is a writer, teacher and communications consultant whose clients have included 14 Canadian government departments, 12 national and international organizations, 14 regional organizations, as well as many corporate and business clients. She can be reached at

See also:

When to Contact the Media