The more often you work with journalists and the media, the more you will find out about how they work. You will soon learn what they need to be able to cover your story well.

It may feel daunting at first to speak to journalists or to meet them face to face. But, getting to know them will help you to be more effective with your media activity.

Doing the basics, like inviting the media to briefings or events, and reacting to their enquiries in a timely and helpful fashion, will mean that you get to know each other well. Remember that communications is a two-way process.


  • How to respond to enquiries from the media
  • What is a media briefing and why would you arrange one?
  • When to use an informal 1-2-1 media briefing. When to use a formal group media briefing
  • How to invite and host media at your events
  • The pros and cons of media exclusives and how to manage them

Read time:

13 mins

Chapter 1

Tips on how and when to engage with media

Read time:

3 mins

Building media relationships

Calling journalists can really help to get your press release noticed. You can learn some top tips in our lesson Using press releases to tell your story. But, media relations are about more than just selling in a press release. Getting to know the people in media will help you to work with them. Remember, things will not be just one-way, they may also contact you.


The benefits of building relationships:

  • You have already secured the name and contact details of relevant journalists before a 'sell-in'
  • You have introduced yourself already, and you have a point of reference when following up e.g. 'we spoke last month about -'
  • You have a better understanding of their interests and the angles they may take when producing a story. This way you can tailor future stories
  • You could get a better sense of when they may have deadlines and how they prefer being contacted in future i.e. emails or telephone or WhatsApp etc.
  • You have a chance to find out what stories they may want to cover in future and how you could add value to them


Handling media enquiries

So far, we've looked at proactive media relations, where you try and 'sell' your story to journalists.

Sometimes, things work the other way. The media contact you because they have questions, they think you can answer. The more you raise your profile with media, the more likely you'll get media enquiries.


Why will you get media questions?

  • They think you, or your organisation, can give a reaction to news story
  • They want more detail about something that has happened with your organisation
  • They are giving you the 'right to reply' to something that has been said
  • You have shared a press release and they have some questions


To respond to media enquiries or not?

Media questions give you the chance to put your point of view or to share information. They can also allow you to correct errors in a story. Ignoring questions from the media is not normally a good strategy.

The way in which you respond, and how fast, can influence journalists. How they think of you and your organisation may change the kind of coverage you will get.


If you ignore requests, journalists could:

  • Try other ways to get a response e.g. door-stepping
  • Say that you refused a response - That may harm your reputation
  • Think that you are unreliable or unprofessional - This could mean they will not share positive news stories from you at a future date


How to respond to media enquiries:

  • Capture the details of all questions asked - This could be, journalist's name, contact details, title, and deadline for response
  • Create an 'enquiry log' - Use this to track all the questions asked and how you responded
  • Be polite and positive - Do this even if you feel the enquiry is hostile. A journalist is usually trying to get the correct information. Use the chance to give your response in a factual way


Be prepared

Create a Q&A list. Before any media enquiries, write a list of questions that you expect journalists to ask. Draft the answers to those questions which you would be happy to share with media. These answers could then be tailored for specific enquiries.

Keep supporting facts, figures, and information filed with your draft Q&A. This can help save time, and makes sure that you keep focused on delivering the facts when queries do come in.

Chapter 2

Media briefings

Read time:

2.5 mins

Media contacts and briefings

Contact with the media will often start with your press release. You may follow that with an email or phone call. You might find an 'informal' session with a journalist may also be helpful. The aim of each of these contacts is to build trust while briefing the story and answering questions.


10 tips for arranging briefings:

  1. Have a reason to make contact - The journalist's time will be short. If you don't have a press release to sell in, you need to add value. Explain why they should know about you and what you do
  2. Give a new perspective - Can you give new or different information that they couldn't get from other sources
  3. Communicate clearly and simply - Avoid jargon. Focus on the key points in your Message House or your Who? What? Why? pyramid
  4. Create an agenda to help you focus on your meeting - Think about what you want to achieve, and what information you want to share
  5. Research what they've written and produced before - What is their media and personal agenda? They may not care about the stories you think are important or exciting
  6. Prepare for the questions they may have - Be clear on what you can and can't say
  7. Find a time that works for them - A quiet time to meet for you may not work for them. They're on a deadline or there could be a major breaking news event. Explore meeting over coffee
  8. Remember, there is no such thing as 'off the record' - If you're talking to a journalist, they are entitled to report what you're telling them
  9. Always treat them with respect - You may feel nervous, or have had negative experiences with journalists previously, but they are people too. Treat any meeting as an opportunity for both of you
  10. Get any other information you have agreed to share to them quickly


'Formal' media briefings

Sometimes, the story you want to tell needs more than just a press release. A formal media briefing can be useful. These are often used to launch research findings or to brief a complex topic.

A small presentation is given to invited media, followed by questions. The questions and their answers can be heard by everyone. This can save time in responding to media queries. But, you will need to prepare well so that all questions can be answered.

After the briefing could arrange for people to give 1-2-1 interviews.

Chapter 3

Inviting to events

Read time:

4 mins

Inviting the media to other events

As well as the press briefings, you may want to invite journalists to some of the other events you host. A cultural or sporting event can show your sponsorship. Awards and speeches can bring a highlight to the successes you have. A launch event that shows a new product or service can tell a strong story about progress.


What might interest a journalist?

  • Does it give them access to new information or new people?
  • Will it provide content for a story or feature?
  • Would this be of interest to their core audience?
  • Does the time, date, location fit with their deadlines?
  • Will they get exclusive access to the event?
  • Is this a staged event for the media or would you hold it anyway?


Planning your event

What can you do to increase the level of interest for the media in an event? Are you able to be flexible with the date, time, and location?


7 questions about your event:

  1. What other major events are happening? Can you build a media schedule around them?
  2. Does the day or time of your event fit the deadlines for your media? An event at 10am is too late for breakfast TV and too early for the lunchtime news. This would not get any live TV coverage
  3. Is the location easy to get to? Could you offer journalists transport?
  4. Will there be a quiet space where media could interview spokespeople? It's good to have a colourful backdrop for ambience. But, a quiet space can also be helpful
  5. Are you giving journalists enough notice to attend? An invite might need to be sent out several weeks in advance
  6. Have you got someone reliable to meet and greet the media? They need to know what is happening and when they can capture the interviews and content that want
  7. Have you got briefings for your spokespeople? They need to know what they should and shouldn't say and who might be interviewing them


How to invite the media

When you ask the media to come to an event you should make sure that the invite is formal. Journalists should know that they're being invited in a media capacity.

The invitation you send needs to capture their interest. It must also give the key information about the event that they need to know.


What to include in your invite:

  • Name of the event
  • Date and time
  • Location and directions, if needed
  • Overview of the event. What's happening, with who, and why
  • Interview and photo prospects. Is there a big moment that will look good on camera? Will there be a spokesperson for interview?
  • RSVP details. Make sure they let you know if they're attending or not
  • Status of the invite - Make clear that it is, 'advisory only - not for publication'


Save the date teaser

Sometimes, you will not have all event details in advance. You can still send out a 'save the date' notice to media who you'd like to attend.


Key teaser information

  • Name of the event
  • Date and approximate time
  • City and town it's being held at
  • Key points of what's happening and why


Managing media at events

You need to have a clear idea, in advance, of which media will attend your event. Make sure that you check replies from all invites for confirmation.


At your event, remember to:

  • Have a list of media attendees to tick off on arrival
  • Include their contact numbers. You can use this if they're running late or haven't shown up. They may have got lost, or could have arrived without you noticing
  • Find people who will be interviewed and introduce them to the media
  • Tell all event guests in advance that the media have been invited
  • Explain that journalists need to get approval for both formal and informal interviews
  • Issue press packs to the media. These will include give the approved message and quotes for them to use in their story
  • Make sure that there are no sensitive materials lying around. This includes your internal briefing documents and guest lists etc.
  • Prevent access to areas you wouldn't want media to see


After the event

Send any further content from the event to the media. This could be event photos or transcripts of speeches. Send your thanks to the media for coming to the event and for giving it coverage.

Chapter 4

Exclusive opportunities

Read time:

2.5 mins

What is a media exclusive?

You can give the media an 'exclusive'. You may invite just one title to an event. You might provide an interview to just one journalist. The ones you choose may get insight and detail about a story before other media. Often, this will also give them the chance publish before others.

Both you and the media title must be clear on exactly what you mean by an exclusive. They may think that you will not tell anyone else. Not even after they've published their story. But, you may think you are giving unique access to part of a story.


Benefits of an exclusive:

  • The media is highly competitive. Each journalist or editor want to be the one to 'break news' first
  • Putting your trust in a single journalist or media title can create a strong link with them. They might even give you very good coverage. But, you will never be given control over the story. You may get some input with how an exclusive story is presented
  • An exclusive can give some benefits. But the chance of greater or more prominent coverage will not be 100% guaranteed


Risks of exclusives:

  • An exclusive puts 'all of your eggs in one basket'. If a major news story breaks, you might not get any coverage at all
  • Offering a weak as an exclusive may damage your links with the journalist. They may feel you are trying to take advantage
  • An exclusive excludes the other media. This may impact you in the future. You need to balance a short-term gain with the benefit of wider links


4 tips for offering exclusives:

  1. Photos from events you've hosted or attended
  2. Photos that show case studies or success stories
  3. Photos of your products or services which show them in action
  4. Head shots or group shots showing the people featured


Five considerations for media photography:

  1. Choose wisely - Think about your media list. Who would be the best journalist or media outlet to offer this to? Who has a history of covering breaking news in your sector
  2. Set clear deadlines - Tell the first journalist you'll offer the story elsewhere if they don't respond by the deadline. If you don't do this, you may be left waiting and get no coverage
  3. Don't damage the exclusive offer - Resist giving all of the story up front. You'll need to provide enough to get interest. But, if the first journalist you offer the exclusive to declines, you will need to have more to attract a second
  4. Get a date on when the media title will cover your story - Agree to whether and when you can issue a press release to all other media
  5. Make sure that your social media and internal communications are also aligned with the timing of the exclusive - A social media post must not break the news before the exclusive story is published


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 18th August 2022.