If you’re trying to market something and getting a journalist to cover it:
1. Never be condescending (to the journalist). Even the nicest ones (like me) will get pissed off. At worst, she will take out her irritation in the story or badmouth you to her colleagues. At best, she will file away the grudge for future reference and she will avoid contacting you for quotes, so you’re essentially losing out on future coverage.
2. Remember that most journalists are generalists. We do our homework before an interview but we’re not experts in your field. Believe me, if we were, we’d be doing your job.
3. Many professional fields from investment banking to the wine industry seem to masturbate in their own jargon. It’s their way of feeling like they’re part of a club and doing something that sets them apart from the rest of the world. Ironically, the people at the top of their fields are the ones who have no problems with those who can’t speak their “language” or explaining things simply and without condescending. Remember, greatness is humble. If you need to posture, you’re probably not that good anyway.
4. Asking a journalist what her credentials are and then dissing them is not on. Again, it’s not our job to have a degree in your field. That’s your job.
5. Having bought a journalist dinner or a drink does not compensate for the above. Remember, we get lots of dinner invitations which mostly we turn down because really, chatting with people we don’t know is our job and we don’t cherish doing it on our free time.
6. An interview means the interviewee is the focus. Tempting as it may be to interject and pontificate on some point you think the interviewer may have missed, don’t. You’re just wasting time and making your interviewee sit around longer, both people nodding but not listening because before you came along we were working.
7. Interviews do not happen as chats over dinner. There’s a reason we get paid to do this and that’s because it’s hard work. You have to focus on the person you’re talking to and painstakingly draw out the most interesting nuggets of their lives. Moreover, we take notes while talking. We write everything down, even if we have a recorder because technology can fail. This does not happen with a fork and a knife in hand and a mouthful of food. For a feature story, it takes two hours or more of talking non-stop and both interviewer and interviewed come away somewhat drained. Again, it’s called work.
8. Published photographs are again the result of hard work and detailed set-ups. The good ones can take half and hour to set up. They do not happen in a few clicks.
9. The payoff for me is that I get paid. The payoff for you is that you get a nice big article in the paper.
10. The skill we have that you don’t have is that we can make people interested in what you’re saying. Also, what you find fascinating may not actually interest most people. Trust us, we’ve been doing this a long time.