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.
On 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?