Stay calm, cool and collected…like me

Stay calm, cool and collected…like me

I like to think I know both sides of the fence.

Being in public relations, one of my core functions is interacting with the media on an almost daily basis. But before jumping over to PR, I was a newspaper reporter for several years, which gives me a unique perspective on knowing how both professions operate.

So when I came across a story on Ragan’s PR Daily about the best way to handle the media when they get something wrong – it piqued my interest…especially point No. 2: talk to the media. The story correctly suggests if a story isn’t accurately reported, one should call the reporter and calmly discuss the story, state your objections and set the record straight. Reporters aren’t perfect, mistakes can happen…and corrections may be made. The last thing you want to do is get into a screaming match over the phone, accusing the reporter of being a heartless jerk while interjecting every expletive under the sun. I should know because that’s what happened to me.

I was initially contacted by a family member inquiring if I would write a story to raise awareness about a fundraiser that was taking place for her brother who was recently injured in a motorcycle accident. Sounded like a good story, so I started hitting the keyboard. The sister told me what a wonderful man her brother is; and a restaurant owner then told me he was hosting the fundraiser to help support the family in their time of need. But when I asked about the circumstances of the accident, the sister seemed vague on details. Being nosy, I obtained a copy of the police and accident report. After reading it, I thought those details were important to the story, so I included them.

Turns out he was drag racing down a side street with another motorcycle, and he hit a car carrying a family with small children. It also turns out he was drunk and had cocaine in his system. The accident left him with a severe head injury; thankfully no one in the car was injured.

If people were moved enough to go attend the fundraiser for this man, I thought it fair they know the circumstances on how he got there. Then they can make an informed decision about attending the event. The sister didn’t agree, and she let me have it.

I stand by my reporting on that story and don’t think I would have changed anything after the fact, even if she had maintained her composure with me on the phone. But the takeaway here is that if you feel a reporter misrepresented you or your brand in a story, gather your thoughts and have a discussion with him or her, and make sure you have all the facts before making the call. Reporters want to be seen as accurate and most will take the steps to set the record straight. But there’s a correct way to get them to do that. Flying off the handle and being belligerent isn’t the way.

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