Boss Lady

7 ways to get your message across to a journalist


Women often underestimate what they know. It’s one of the reasons women shrink from media prominence — they are unsure if their knowledge has value to other people.

Even those women who are confident about the value of what they know can end up feeling misrepresented in the media. When this happens, they feel “burned” by their contact with journalists.

In my view, it is better to be misrepresented than ignored, as far as media exposure goes. You have to be in it to win it. And it’s a step towards establishing a relationship with a journalist.

Feeling confident about the value of your knowledge is a crucial step in building your media profile. Journalists look for experts, people who bring authority to their views because they have thought their ideas through.

However, it’s something of a specialist skill to communicate your knowledge to a journalist – which is why it can sometimes go wrong and end up misrepresented.

After 16 years of reporting, I’m keenly aware of how easy it is to misunderstand a point in an interview. It’s not intentional; it’s just what happens.

So how can you get your ideas across effectively without dumbing down your message and thinking?

Following some simple guidelines will not only help to ensure your ideas are correctly reported, but journalists will love you and put you in their contact book for next time.

1. Make clear, strong statements. Here’s an example: “Content marketing is the future of journalism.”

2. Provide examples. Eg: “The ANZ bank is just one Australian company that has established a full newsroom staffed by journalists and editors to deliver content to its customers.”

3. Explain your idea in more than one way. Use a metaphor, such as “It’s like old media is a big river and now its breaking into many streams (new media).”

4. Tell a (very brief) story. “Recently, Unilever sponsored a story called “Why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design.” It got 539 comments, and priceless social media shares.

5. Break part of what you say down into numbered steps. “There are five kinds of content: static; sales; informative; educative; and sticky. Sticky is the best because it is trusted, timely and relevant.”

6. Bring some emotion into your message: “I really hate it when I click on a great headline and the story doesn’t deliver on the headline’s promise. It makes me want to weep; so much effort, so little return.”

7. Suggest something readers could do to address the issues you have raised. “I’d like every marketing director to buy a journalist a coffee today, and ask them for three tips on how to improve their most recent blog. And that’s not just because I am a journalist!”


Rest assured, it’s very likely that you have got valuable knowledge to share with the media (at least as valuable as the bloke who is getting in the paper, eh?)

Think it through, and explain it in a variety of ways. Get a bit emotional – readers are looking for a point emotion connection, even if they disagree with you. Use examples and metaphors to illustrate your ideas and bring them to life.

About Kath Walters

Trainer. Mentor. Speaker. Kath Walters is a former Fairfax business journalist turned expert in media relations and content marketing. Kath trains and mentors businesses that want to use media and content to build their profile and profits -- and change the world for the better -- sharing everything she has learned over 16 years of writing and editing for top quality print and digital media mastheads. Kath has written an estimated 1.3 million compelling, informative and carefully researched words. The mastheads that have published them include: LeadingCompany, BRW, Australian Financial Review, SmartCompany, Business Spectator, Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Property Observer.

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