Dealing with the press and media attention – What happens when YOU become the news…?

How to deal with media attention from the press

  • Don’t speak to anyone without seeking specialist advice
  • Do not give out photos or pose for photos
  • Engage an agent. Do not deal directly with national newspapers
  • Make the most of the opportunity – dealt with in the right way, even negative publicity can be turned into a positive!

Need free emergency media advice? For a swift response, contact us using the form to the right…

Press attentionEvery day an ordinary person finds themselves suddenly thrust into the media spotlight. Overnight their world can be turned upside down.

They might find themselves put on the spot by the press or TV asking for a quote or to pose for photos. They could even be offered money. So should they sell their story? What would you do?

Here, in a guide on dealing with sudden press and media attention, we look at all the options – including how to turn the spotlight off…

Why is there media attention?

Reasons why individuals find themselves at the centre of a media storm vary as widely as stories themselves. We all take it for granted that we’ll turn on our TV, open our paper, look on news sites online and instantly get the news. The first photos of people involved in a freak accident, the picture of a missing child, the views of the spouse who was wed to a murderer – to bring you these stories, somewhere a journalist has had to knock on a door or write a letter or make that difficult call. Without that, there would be no news for you to read. At that same time, any one of us can find it is our loved one who’s suddenly been arrested or tragically died. Then you might have unwittingly made yourself the story – you might have got pregnant with eight babies or be pregnant with the world’s first designer baby. Whatever, the first sign might be a reporter turning up on your doorstep, a phone call or a letter – even an approach through Facebook or via Twitter.

First steps

The first issue to consider is do you want to give information, give a statement or even sell your story? You do not have to say anything – and in fact we advise interviewees NOT to talk to anyone until they have spoken with us first. It is perfectly reasonable to decide not to co-operate at all. In this case where you have decided you definitely don’t want to talk, reporters cannot legally ‘camp’ on your doorstep. That sort of behaviour has thankfully been consigned to the past and legally if you ask them to go, then they must leave. If you tell journalists not to contact you again, then they must also abide by this. Generally news these days travels fast. It is literally in a paper one day and out the next. So ultimately if you choose not to say anything then the media interest in you will naturally just fade away to be replaced by the next story in the news.

However many people are not as sure what to do

It might be you would like to say something, you would like to issue a photo but are worried. What is the right way to do this? Should you be paid or is being paid wrong? It can also be very confusing to receive several offers from different publications – which one should you choose? Unfortunately in this situation you will often have little time to make up your mind. A day of deliberation might not matter – but should you choose to sell your story, for example, then you have to act fast. This is because depending on your story, as time goes on,  the value of it can drop. If you give birth to octuplets, the media interest in you is going to remain high for weeks, if not months or even longer. So you will have more time to make up your mind about selling a story. But for many stories interest can wane very fast – even delaying a couple of days can make your story much less sellable.

If you decide to investigate selling your story

* Do not speak to anyone until you have taken proper advice. Chatting generally to reporters will devalue your story as it will no longer be able to be sold as an exclusive.

Do not give photos or allow yourself to be photographed by anyone. Again, photos are valuable and unless there is some benefit in putting a photo on general release – your child is missing for example – photos should be sold with your story as an exclusive. Good previously unseen photos will make your story more valuable.

Be wary of dealing directly with newspapers, magazines or TV.  Even if your story is straightforward, who will own your photos and the interview? Will they syndicate your story (sell it on) without your knowledge? What about money – is this the best deal? And when will you be paid? Will you have copy approval? What happens if you give an exclusive to a paper and then they don’t run it after all? Be aware that all these issues are also the same for local papers! If you speak to a local newspaper reporter it is likely your story will be sold to all the national newspapers and the first you will know is when you wake up the next day and see it. So unfortunately selling a story by yourself can be fraught with unexpected pitfalls. Most people will not have ever sold a story, let alone have spoken to the press before, and this is why we can’t stress enough that it is best left to an expert.

Choose your agent. A well connected agent who sells stories to ‘whole of market ‘ so that includes national newspapers, magazines and TV worldwide is preferable to one who only writes for a handful of publications. Find someone who can take their own photos of you so you have control over them and where they are printed. At Featureworld we can use our own trusted photographers, we always write our own stories, everything is read back to interviewees for their approval and we do not sell stories on (syndicate them) without an interviewee’s prior consent. This means interviewees control their own stories. At the same time we advise which papers, magazines and TV will pay the most for a story and who will give it the best ‘show’ – this is not always the same thing. A paper that can’t afford to pay so much for a story might use it larger than a higher circulation publication who will pay more but by comparison, might only use a few paragraphs. These are all things that need to be properly considered before you sell your story.

Make the most of the opportunity.  If a tragedy has struck you, if you have been subjected to huge unfairness or you look in the paper and see your ex husband has been arrested for murder, you can feel as if you will never want to talk about it, let alone sell your story. But while none of us can undo what has happened on the past, we can shape our future. Selling a story can be a way of taking control of a situation, of setting the record straight and prove a very carthartic and therapeutic way of ensuring something positive comes out of a nightmare.

If you would like advice – or simply someone to talk over the pros and cons of selling your story – then contact us in complete confidence.  We also run a 24/7 emergency media advice service for NO FEE for those who find themselves at the centre of a breaking news story.

Read more: More questions answered about selling your story to the press.