4 Tips for Correcting Journalists’ Errors

It's one of the trickiest of dances for a PR pro: telling a journalist that he or she misquoted you or one of your brand's executives, or that the brand itself was misrepresented. You want to set the record straight, but you also want to preserve your relationship with the journalist.

Most of all, you want to correct the mistakes and get those corrections to your target audience.

Mistakes happen—PR pros make them, journalists make them. (Sometimes, journalists knowingly fabricate quotes, as in the recent case of former New Yorker staff writer Jonah Lehrer, but let's assume those "mistakes" are extreme and rare cases.) Here are some tips for those times when errors creep into coverage of your brand, courtesy of Jenelle Hamilton, co-founder of the creative agency The Connective NYC:

  1. Approach the journalist from the point of view that corrections are a positive, not a negative: We all hate to admit that we make mistakes, so approach the situation without any hint of ego or anger and focus on the building of trust between you and the journalist, who you may need to work with again. You're both interested in accuracy.

  2. Work with the journalist to keep the correction simple: Write the correction in a simple, easy-to-understand manner. Keep in mind, though, that trying to minimize the error, as opposed to actually correcting it, is not the right approach.

  3. Promote the correction via social media: Use social media channels to promote the correction. Perhaps scheduling two tweets or posts to make sure that people who may have missed it, do indeed catch it. Take the same approach to promoting the correction that you took to promoting the story itself.

  4. In the event of a major mistake, ask for another platform: If your organization has been seriously and obviously misrepresented, ask the journalist if it would be possible to have the brand represented in a different platform—say, a video piece that touches on your industry—or in another story entirely. 

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson