PR is a powerful tool to strengthen your brand, increase exposure and build trust. It can be tempting to remain in full control of the message and ask for copy approval after a successful interview, but this will go down like a lead balloon.

Just ask Clare Balding and her team who recently faced the scorn of a journalist who felt her integrity was called into question. For the sake of balance, I will add that Clare Balding strongly denies the accusations levelled at her, but interviewees should take notice to avoid ending up in a similar situation.

The power of PR lies in the trust that the reader has in the journalist and the publication.

Asking for copy approval shows that you do not trust the journalist to get it right. At best, the conversation comes to an awkward end. There is a chance that your comments will never see the light of day. The worst case scenario is that you risk alienating the journalist forever, which could be disastrous if you operate in an industry that is covered only by a handful of journalists.

During the course of my career, I have only ever come across one instance where copy approval is acceptable. And that is when the subject matter is highly technical and the journalist offers to send the draft article to the interviewee.

Copy approval is acceptable when the journalist offers to share the article with the interviewee for fact-checking only

Why? Well, the journalist wants to make sure their readers are given the right information. Mistakes or a wrong interpretation could tarnish their and the publication’s authority and reputation. So it makes good editorial sense to ask the expert interviewee to double-check for accuracy.

Alas, this does not mean free reign to change or edit the copy. On the contrary, I always advise my clients to only check for inaccuracies and log them in a separate document or email.

This will also give you a chance to clarify points that are factually correct but could do with a bit more nuance. If and how the journalist incorporates your additional info is of course completely up to them!

To make the most of your journalist interview you need to prepare thoroughly (your public relations advisor can help with that). Know what you can and can’t say and paint the journalist a picture using good examples and explanations. At the end of the interview, when you’ve done all you can, just let go and wait for the article to be published.

Summary points:
  • Never ask to see the copy before it’s published;
  • If the journalist offers to share it, only  check for inaccuracies;
  • Do not make changes to the copy directly;
  • Send suggested changes and other clarifications via email instead.

If you’re not sure how PR can help you, then read our blog post Five reasons why PR matters to your successful business.

If you need help with message development, media training or preparing for media interviews then get in touch with us here.

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