Errors in the media are bound to happen: incorrect facts, misspellings or mispronunciations, tagging the wrong accounts on social media, you name it.
Poynter does a rounds up (“Best of media corrections”) each year some of the funniest slip-ups that caught their eye, errors we might all learn a lesson or two from. But let’s face it, when we’re on the other side of those media miscues, especially when it involves your client, there’s not a whole lot that’s funny.
Most of the time, these errors can be quickly corrected, especially when the article lives online. But what do you do if an anchor “butchers” your client’s name during a live segment or links to the wrong company page in an email newsletter sent out to its list of thousands of subscribers?
Here’s are a few examples of what to do when you see an error in your media placement:
First, Define Media Relations and Set Expectations with Clients
Media relations is a great way to share your story and lend your company or brand credibility. But remember, it is not the same as paid content in which you are in control of the copy being published. Media relations allows credible outlets and reporters to share your client’s story. That’s why PR professionals put time and effort into the components of a media relations campaign: the release to capture the facts; the pitch to suggest specific angles; and the media list to target specific opportunities, among other pieces.
When setting up a media relations campaign with your client, you decide together if the story is newsworthy enough to stand alone or would be a better fit (or more realistic) inside a larger story where your client is not the sole feature. Either way, it’s worth reminding your clients that pitching your story to a news outlet means giving up control over how it comes out, and while none of us wants to see a mistake, they are more apt to happen when you are not in the driver’s seat. But that lack of control also is what provides the power behind these kinds of placements, the fact that readers know the words and the perspectives were not chosen directly by you.
Triple Check the Information You Sent
Before contacting the reporter, the outlet or your client to inform them of the error, triple check the materials you sent. We are all human and you just might find that the mistake started in the initial pitch. The best way to compound an error is to falsely accuse the reporter of making it.
Ask for a Correction
Follow up with your contact and ask for a media correction. Don’t just focus specifically on the “error,” but thank them for working with you, compliment the areas where the piece was strong and “bring their attention” to the offending word or phrase. Many print publications, depending on the serverity of the error, will print a correction in its next issue or online. The New York Times even has a “corrections” section on the web.
Television stations often repurpose live and prerecorded segments on the website that includes a header and a brief description. If a mistake is made during a segment that airs on TV, search for the segment on the station’s website and ask for a correction to be added to the area where the video is posted.
How to handle media corrections will vary on a case by case basis as there are a number of platforms where corrections can be made. Don’t be afraid to ask a reporter to make a correction and follow up if needed.
Can the Media Hit Still be Repurposed?
Despite the error, chances are, you should still consider the media hit a success. Smaller errors like a typo, misspelling or other minor flubs does not mean you can’t still share that media hit on your company’s social platforms. Simply include the correct information in the copy of the social post.
Above all, don’t panic…or better still, tell your clients not to. There are multiple ways to recover from simple errors, and readers and viewers have grown accustomed to updates and revisions, especially given the speed at which reporting is done today.