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Why You Shouldn’t Answer Reporters’ Questions by Email

Today, an increasing amount of media relations is handled through email correspondence. Pitches are made by email; emails are used for follow up purposes; and in some cases, email is even used for interviews and giving quotes to reporters.

questionsOn the surface, email correspondence for dealing with the media seems like a great idea. You have time to perfectly tailor your responses, ensuring no mistakes are made, and email is just convenient. It can be much easier than trying to find the time for a phone conversation with a busy reporter. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about being misquoted because everything is right there on the screen in black and white.

But there are also some serious drawbacks to answering the reporter’s questions by email.

  • Your quotes lose their edge – Truthfully, email interviews are typically more boring than watching The English Patient. The conversation comes across as stilted and unrealistic. Quotes lose their zip because you’ve spent so much time ensuring they’re just right that they end up all wrong. Sure, you won’t slip up and say something stupid when you have time to respond to questions by email, but your quotes won’t have the pop that reporters are looking for.
  • Building a relationship is more challenging – There’s only so far you can take your relationship when all correspondence is handled by email. It’s good to get on the phone with the reporter, and if they are local, it’s even better to try to meet them face to face at some point. Why? Once reporters are able to put a voice and a face to you, they’re likelier to do the right thing by you.
  • Tone of voice gets lost – One of the biggest pitfalls of all online communication is that it’s incredibly difficult to interpret one’s tone of voice, especially when it’s someone you don’t know. Whether you’re trying to be funny or very serious, tone just doesn’t read well in email correspondence. As a result, your answers can very easily get misinterpreted, making you look bad.
  • Conversations don’t reach their full potential – Email conversations are inherently limited. If the reporter sends over three questions, that’s all you end up answering; whereas, with a phone interview, the reporter will ask follow-up questions as the conversation begins to take shape and carve out its course. As a result, important points end up getting glossed over in email correspondence.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you handle interviews by email?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: http://www.ereleases.com/prchecklist.html

3 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maggie Holben, tylersorrells, Alisa, Affect Strategies, krhule and others. krhule said: Why You Shouldn’t Answer Reporters’ Questions by Email RT @ereleases http://bit.ly/9GvMh7 […]

  2. Ben says:

    Thanks Mickie for the post. When I managed media relations I tended to respond through the channel the reporter used to contact me. I often dealt with foreign reporters so email could be useful if English wasn’t their first language. Nevertheless as a general rule I preferred phone or face to face for the reasons you state. I also think dealing with a journalist by email or through fax (yes we faxed then too!) indirectly said ‘we don’t really want to be open with the media’, which wasn’t the signal we wished to send. Interesting too, a few times we used email the reporter wrote in his/her copy ‘in a written statement xx said….’ which of course can imply an organization has something to feel awkward about.

  3. Hi, Mickie. Thanks for your article – your points are dead-on! I’m noticing that an increasing number of journalists are insisting on email interviews. As a result, clients and their PR reps are faced with not responding to media queries that stipulate Email interviews only, or dealing with the lackluster results that may not benefit the source.

    I would love to hear from you, and from SMEs, other agencies or PR pros on how you’re dealing with this situation. Thanks! @RuthADanielson

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