How to Get Ahead With Reporters


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Last year, before I joined the world of public relations, I worked as a financial reporter. It is a job I held for almost 18 years.

Over that time, like many reporters, I orchestrated a list of the top pet peeves performed by PR types. Headlines that did not reflect the content of the press release, for example, or a PR person with a reeeaaallly high voice. (Sorry if you can’t help it. I’m just telling you my pet peeves.)

Now that I have crossed over to the “dark side,” I am policing myself not to make the same egregious missteps, while at the same time learning the ropes. It is sometimes a humbling effort, especially when I hear the same derisive tone on the other end of the phone that I occasionally made as a disrupted reporter.

So as a reminder to myself, and hopefully others, I offer my list of “dos” and “do nots”:

1. Do not list yourself as the contact person if you are going to be out of reach the day the release is sent.

2. Be ready to answer basic questions. I used to get releases from a New York PR firm representing an international corporation that I knew well. Twice, I had to call for basic information. Twice, the PR agency could not immediately answer my question. Every time after that, I called the corporation directly. And I complained.

3. Honor deadlines. Always. And remember that with the web, reporters are feeding the beast in real time.

4. Do not get the reporter’s name wrong. (Leesa Sesack? Really?)

5. Do not chew gum or eat lunch into the phone.

6. Do not leave long story pitches on voicemail. Reporters are busy, and they probably do not like the sound of your voice as much as you (especially if it is reeeaaally high).

7. Regarding voice messages: Leave your name and number first.

8. Do not harangue a reporter. I had one PR person hound me for months about the economic significance of buttermilk-battered chicken. No.

9. Do not be surprised if you bury the lead and the reporter finds it. Reporters are not stupid. They ferret out information for a living. I used to habitually read the first paragraph of a press release, and then the last, before attending to the middle.

10. Treat the reporter as you would like to be treated. This means being honest. And be sure the reporter knows you expect the same in return.

Phew! I could actually go on and on, but why belabor the point? (Rule 11: Do not belabor the point, buttermilk-battered chicken lady.) But please, do feel free to chime in.

Perhaps we can make a book.

Lisa Biank Fasig
Lisa leads the creation of editorials and feature stories for COLLOQUY and oversees the work of contributing editors and writers. With 18 years of reporting experience, most in business and specifically consumer behavior, she is highly skilled at researching data and teasing out the trends. A background in graphic design enables her to see ideas in three dimensions and tell the story visually.


  1. So true

    I agree about the high pitched voice. We all have one example or another of a “fatal attraction caller”. Funnily enough I’m always in a meeting when she calls.



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