My Forbes Advice: How to Approach Journalists Based on their Experience

How to Deal with Inexperienced Journalists

The complexity of news storylines can vary drastically. If a story gets too complex, it’s easy to lose the more inexperienced reporter. This is why you must stay completely focused on the story that was pitched. Don’t confuse reporters with additional information or sidebar stories that can take their attention off the current narrative.

Earlier this summer, I was on the phone with a CEO client and a Fox News producer who was more inexperienced. The CEO did a deep dive into his technology and then rambled over his son’s Ph.D. research on how the Covid-19 virus is transferred. We specifically pitched a story around churches, yet the CEO was trying to apply the technology to every industry around. 

I think I understood the motive behind his communication style: He was trying to get the producer interested in a story on his son while also selling the producer on how this technology has broad appeal. Along the way, the producer got lost. 

Like many inexperienced producers, the journalist didn’t want to interrupt a more seasoned CEO. At the end of the interview, the producer said, “It’s a lot to process.” I knew with that phrase that the story was lost, and I would have to reel the story back in with a separate conversation. 

If you’re dealing with an inexperienced journalist, especially if they’re recently out of college, don’t overcomplicate the story or discuss multiple angles over the phone.  That only gives the reporter more potential paths to pursue, and if they don’t get it, the multiple roads could drive confusion. Inexperienced reporters are more likely to tell their boss that there is not a story than admit that they do not understand the information given to them.

How to Deal with Experienced Journalists

Generally speaking, the higher up you get in journalism, the more likely you will find stronger personalities. Experienced journalists take their public responsibility seriously.

I always tell my clients that experienced reporters will drive the interview, so if you’re speaking with journalists who have decades of experience behind them, let them own the story. 

When you think about it, closing a story is no different than closing a sale. You’d want to know everything you could in advance to find out how to converse and sell. It’s the same with journalism. The more you know about the source, the more equal you will become in the interview, because I guarantee you that any experienced journalist has researched you well before they ask their first question.


MACIAS PR was founded in 2009 by Mark Macias – a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. The agency has been named the Best Strategic PR Firm and Best Financial PR Firm by both journalists and marketing peers. The top tech and healthcare PR firm uses strategies that stem from this background inside the media.