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Make Covering a Story a Snap for Reporters

You finally got a reporter interested in covering your story, but your work is hardly done. Now you need to make sure to get the story you want.  And, to increase your odds of continuing to work with the reporter, make sure they have an easy time working with you.

Aside from arranging all the logistics—the place, the time, the people to interview, and the background (to film or write about)—you need a concise, informative briefing document. (The interviewees will love it too!)

Years ago, our good friend Enez Paganuzzi, WNBC‘s assignment editor extraordinaire, helped us develop the outline for a briefing document we have been thanked for countless times by reporters and interviewees alike. You should send the briefing memo at least a few days, if not a week, before the interview. Here are the elements:

Outline the basic information

  • Outlet name (e.g., WNYW Fox 5’s “Good Day New York”)
  • Reporter, interviewer, or host name and link to bio, if available
  • Date and time of interview
  • Arrival time
  • Expected length of interview
  • Departure time
  • Address (if location is hard to find, insert directions)
  • Air/publish date, if applicable
  • Contact information:

  • Reporter or media contact, with cell phone
  • Each interviewee, with cell phone, if possible
  • Staff contact, with cell phone

Summarize the story

In one or two sentences (we’re serious—just one or two!), summarize the story that will be covered.

Logistics details

It’s also important for interviewees to understand the interview format (e.g., if they are one of several guests or being interviewed alone, whether a television or radio interview is pre-taped or live, the setup for the interview (seated on a couch or at an anchor desk), and if interviewees should arrive hair/makeup ready).

Include necessary links

Include links to prior coverage, which is important information for the interviewee, so they know what to expect. (This is easier to do if this is a program or column that has a consistent format.)

Detail interviewee information

Identify the names, titles, and affiliations for all interviewees (this is a crucial step to avoid names being misspelled on-air or in print); and, include interviewee bios and any background information about their experience.

Identify possible questions

For journalists, particularly when you have multiple interviewees, suggest best questions/topics/role for each interviewee.

And, for interviewees, provide a list of likely questions so they can prepare for the interview.

Provide background information

Incorporate information, including any data, reports, press releases, statements, and op-eds about the story/program you are pitching. This will give the reporter or interviewer the background they need to do a better job covering the story.  

Remember to only send them “on-message” background – more than that and they may focus on issues you’re not interested in discussing.

Organizational information

This could be as simple as your boilerplate, website, and links to relevant webpages, such as the ones where viewers should make a donation or learn more about a specific initiative. Remember: don’t overwhelm the reporter with too much information!

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