Thursday, August 28, 2008

Should You Reveal That Another Reporter Interviewed You for the Same Publication?

I used ProfNet and this week to find an anecdote for a short piece for a business magazine.

One of the people who responded was the marketing director of a start-up business; she thought her boss, the founder, would be a great source. She was right. He seemed to have just the experience I needed. He was such a great source, in fact, that his company had been profiled in the section I write for in this month's issue.

This was important for me to know, so I'm glad she told me. Why? Because if I used him as a source for a story running three months later, my editor would cut him from the piece ("We just used him three months ago! Couldn't you find anyone else?") and send me scrambling at the last minute for a replacement. She would be annoyed, I would be annoyed, and the source would be annoyed because we all wasted his time on an interview that wouldn't be used.

I avoided a potential problem because of a casual mention by the marketing director, so I'm still smiling. However, I know many journalists who would be hugely -- HUGELY -- annoyed by this and would assume that the marketing director was an evil, manipulative, spotlight-hugging egomaniacal witch whose personal mission statement reads: "Make life difficult for at least one journalist every day."

Here's how you can protect yourself from this uninformed attitude among many writer types. If you've been interviewed by a reporter for a specific outlet recently:

  1. Don't pitch a different reporter working on a different story for that publication. Your quote/anecdote/whatever will be edited out of the final piece by the editor who knows that you've already been featured, even if the reporter doesn't.
  2. If you're going to ignore that advice, tell the reporter up front that you've been interviewed by that publication recently. Give the topic and the journalist's name and the publication date if you know it.

Why? Because you'll burn bridges if you don't. Keep your media relations bridges intact by practicing full disclosure. You'll save everybody and aggravation and you'll save face with your boss.

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