As a law firm media professional, there have been too many times when I am thrilled to see an article get published, only to feel my heart sink when I notice an error requiring a correction. Reporters are human and sometimes make mistakes. Recently, The Communicator, a newspaper in Clay, W.Va., forgot a letter that changed a word in an article’s headline to something inappropriate. They issued a correction and apology, but the error generated a lot of attention. Most journalists could relate.
While most errors aren’t quite so drastic, requesting corrections from reporters is part of the day-to-day job for law firm media professionals. Following these tips will help make those requests smoother and maintain a positive relationship with the reporter.
- Ask, don’t demand. Reporters are more than happy to make a correction if they have made a mistake. Obvious mistakes include misspellings, incorrect dates, etc. Recently, a reporter forgot the ampersand in the firm’s name, and he was more than happy to fix it. For another client, the reporter inverted the date, and she was quite embarrassed that the article had gone to print with the error.
- Some corrections take time. If a reporter made a factual error, alert her right away. Sending emails over a weekend is fine—almost everyone checks in before Monday morning. However, realize that the reporter will have to run the change up the chain of command and the editor will ultimately have to approve the correction.
- Off-message is not necessarily incorrect. Sometimes reporters mention facts that the firm would rather not bring to light, but that does not make them wrong. As law firm media professionals, it is our job to help prepare attorneys for interviews by providing them with key messages and coaching them on how to answer difficult questions. If a reporter digs something up that is true but unsavory, it is unlikely to be changed.
- Off-focus is also not incorrect. After coordinating an interview for a lateral hire, my colleague was surprised to discover that the resulting article focused more on the work the attorney did at his previous firm, instead of why he made a change and what he will be working on now. But the article was factually correct. While it was frustrating, nothing could be done.
Finally, remember to always be respectful and professional. You have worked hard to develop good working relationships with reporters, so you want to make sure that you make requests that don’t jeopardize their future coverage of your news.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you would like more insights on how to develop and maintain good relationships with reporters. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.