The Dos And Don’ts Of Dealing With The Press Online

By | March 30, 2004

I thought I would start penning some guidelines for companies seeking to provide resources for journalists online.

I’ll post this on the cache and add to it there as Please feel free to let me know if you’d like to see stuff added, changed, taken away, or whether you have any experiences that may be instructive.

Overriding Principle: Journalists are in a hurry. So:

  • Keep it Accessible: All media pages should be accessible via just typing or
  • Keep it Simple: Contacts need to be clearly listed, along with their positions, full company name, address, direct line, switchboard number, fax number, email address, and (if possible) an out of hours number to be reached on. This information should be presented in simple text form that can be copied and inserted into Outlook or some other contact organiser easily. No Flash, no PDF, no text in graphic format, no fancy stuff. Titles and areas of responsibility should be clear; no flashy titles that mean nothing to folk outside the company.
  • Keep it Fresh: If the contact is not available/on leave/left the company, their name should not be up there. If there’s any chance they’re not available that day, or that hour, then there should be a clear backup person to contact.
  • Make all company information, including press releases, available from one page, make the material searchable, and try to avoid PDF files where possible. The page should load quickly.
  • Write any press release or press web page in clear English, and purge if of jargon. Where you can’t avoid using jargon, explain it.

Some Do Nots:

  • Do not require journalists to register before they can reach someone.
  • Do not add journalists to mailing lists unless they’ve specifically requested it.
  • Do not send any email larger than 100 KB unless the journalist has requested it. Some of us still use dial-up.
  • Do not send press releases in Microsoft Word format. They look ugly, and often contain more information than you think (about revisions, authors, and company data). PDF is best, if you can’t put it in simple HTML.
  • Give your press releases, and your emails, clear titles so we know what it’s about.
  • Don’t put pictures of happy workers smling, sitting in front of laptops, shaking hands, punching fists into the air, or any other cliched image, anywhere near the media page. We know they’re all models and don’t work for the company; most of them we recognise from other company websites. Leave it out.

More to come as I think of stuff/have bad experiences with PR people/have postive experiences with PR people and websites.

2 thoughts on “The Dos And Don’ts Of Dealing With The Press Online

  1. Andy Abramson


    As a fellow media member who also works in the PR world, yes I know, it breaks all the rules, but these are different times, I can feel your pain.

    The biggest rule I feel needs to be told is ” don’t sit on it and don’t spin it.”

    When we in the media know the story, don’t duck it, try and avoid it or make it become something else. Too many PR types just avoid facing up to the fact that WE know, have facts, information or market knowledge that they may not have. We as media may know what led to the product, service or situation being developed and they may not. Then, they can’t find the person inside the company who knows it, then either a) tell us nothing b) try and get us to use their talking point angles c)move us from the question at hand.

    The second rule has to be be honest and prompt. Not calling back or replying to a news outlet, no matter how large or small, is plain wrong. Manners matter.

  2. Graham Holliday

    Personally, I find press releases in MS Word useful, if often ugly. You can’t cut and paste from a pdf file, at least I can’t.


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