Media Training 101

public relations

Notes from my chat with journalist Chikodi Chima


Chikodi Chima is an experienced journalist. As a novice in the world of PR, I had the pleasure of picking his brain. He might be coming by 500Startups’ offices in early December to share more thoughts on media training and journalism broadly,so keep an eye out for an email.

My notes below are mostly unstructured, so if you have questions on anything in particular, stop by my desk. You might consider a lot of it common knowledge, and it is, but it helps me to hear it said out loud.

  • With online publications, life of content is short, frequent contact is okay. There are two types of stories: milestones and make-your-own news. Mix them up when reaching out to journalists.
  • Spread around stories as much as possible so you don’t see a bump followed by silence. It is a good idea to have a schedule at least a few weeks long where you map out which group of publications you want to target in a each week. For example: week 1 is wall st publications, week 2 is HR publications, and so on.
  • When approaching journalists weeks in advance of ideal press release, give them information under an embargo. That is, let them know you’re briefing press early, but XYZ will become news in a few weeks. Don’t forget to hold back the big reveal so they don’t break the embargo.
  • Set up breadcrumbs for topics you care about by setting up news alerts and identifying specific authors. When you have interesting, unique material to enrich their story, reach out to them. Over time, they may begin to look at you as subject matter expert, and approach you for a quote. Offer to share proprietary data if relevant.
  • What is considered off the record is subjective. It primarily depends on your relationship with the journalist. As one of my friends once asked me, if something is truly off the record, why are you sharing it? Consider offering an alternate source that will corroborate the point in question if you don’t want to be quoted in it.
  • Before the actual interview, prepare 5-7 discussion points. Keep steering conversation in that direction, especially if the questioning enters territory you’d rather avoid. Repeat the sound bites again and again throughout the interview.
  • Don’t forget to make it easy for the reporter to find supplementary information (email them or direct them to a URL with content). This method is exceptionally effective if your vanity URL is easy to remember.
  • Set aside 30m twice a week to tackle this to-do list.


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