How to annoy a journalist: a 10-point primer for NPOs

Non-profit organisations (NPOs) do a lot of great work, often on a shoestring. And often that work requires educating the broader public on little to no advertising budget.

Of course, they could take the time to make friends with the media – and to enlist them in helping them spread the word about their worthy cause; get the journalists on their side. But that seems too obvious. After all, the media are the enemy.

So in case you work for an NPO and haven’t quite mastered the art of annoying a journalist who could help you, here’s a quick guide.

1. Ensure, on your website, that there is no way for a journalist to contact you except by filling in the same online form that every member of the public fills in.

2. If the journalist does fill in that form, requesting comment from someone at your organisation, do not get in touch with them, and if you do, certainly not with any sense of urgency.

3. Under no circumstances should you have a media liaison person listed on your website, nor should the person who answers the organisation’s phone know whose job it is to deal with the media.

4. If you do have a media liaison contact, ensure their email has an auto-responder that says you can expect a response within 48 hours. Journalists with daily deadlines especially, appreciate that kind of delay.

5. If you agree to a telephonic interview at a certain time, under no circumstances should you answer the journalist’s phone call at the appointed time. Ensure you are busy doing something else. And, if you reschedule the appointment due to unforeseen circumstances, be sure you aren’t available when the journalist calls again. Do this as often as necessary.

6. At least once, assure the journalist that a particular day is ideal, and that they are welcome to call you at any time during that day. Under no circumstances should you actually answer your phone when it rings.

7. Accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) copy the journalist in the email you send to the head of your organisation, complaining about how you’ve had “another journalist asking for comment, and they want it in under a week”. Don’t forget to add how you wish they would realise how busy you are.

8. Once a journalist has covered your organisation, do add their email address to your database, and ensure they get every spurious piece of information your organisation produces.

9. If a journalist covers your organisation, ensure you hound them weekly to see if they will write some more about you. They are now your willing slave and will regard your organisation as more important than anything else that’s happening in the world.

10. Finally, and possibly most importantly, make sure that at every opportunity you complain about how the media just don’t seem interested in the sterling work your organisation is doing, and you just can’t understand why not.

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