You’re lucky enough to get a front-page article about your company in the local newspaper. But they spelled your CEO’s name wrong and made two other factual errors.
What do you do?
During my days as a newspaper editor, I was astounded by the number of people who called the paper to report inaccuracies but asked that corrections not be printed “because we don’t want to call more attention to the error.”
That’s the wrong
tactic. Always call and ask for a correction. Many public relations people disagree with me and believe you should “save your ammo for the really big battles.” I think that's dangerous. Here's why.
Printed corrections usually are filed along with the original article in the newspaper’s library. If a different reporter refers to that incorrect article several months later, she will know there was inaccuracy and will not repeat it because she will see the printed correction. That's the reason you ask for a correction—not so people will read the tiny little paragraph buried at the bottom of Page 2.
If you need to ask for a correction, start by calling the reporter who wrote the story, but don’t belittle or yell at the reporter. Explain the inaccuracy, give him or her the correct information, then ask the reporter to read the correction back to you after it's written. You do not
want an inaccurate correction.
If the reporter refuses to run a correction, ask to speak to the reporter’s supervisor.
If the situation warrants it, try to get added mileage from the correction by following it up with a letter to the editor saying something like this:
“Thanks for your article in the May 14 issue of the Daily Woof. We did, however, want to clarify two points in your article. Our orientation event is actually July 13, and the correct name of our speaker is Steve Little.”
Never repeat the inaccuracy in your letter.
Then you can add another point the reporter didn't include, like this: “We also wanted to add that all proceeds from this fundraiser will be used for to help our local homeless shelter.”
In other words, rather than just write a letter that sets the record straight, try to weave in a few more points that weren't mentioned in the article. That way, it doesn't look like you called to ask for a correction, then wrote a letter to the editor that's identical to the printed correction.
For more grievous errors, you can write an opinion column setting the record straight, along with a photo of the author.
For super-duper blunders that the publication refuses to correct, a well-written letter from your attorney might be the solution. Media outlets hate lawsuits and will do almost anything to avoid them.
For TV and radio, you can ask for corrections, but few stations broadcast them, unless they think they might be sued. So, unless that's the case, you can call to set the record straight, but the correction probably won't be broadcast.
If, by chance, you want to reprint an inaccurate article for your media kit, ask whether the newspaper will give you a corrected version. Many publications won't do this, but it's worth a try.
Publicity expert Joan Stewart the author of four ebooks on publicity and is quoted in more than 60 books on marketing, public relations, and small business. You can follow her on Facebook and on Twitter. A version of this story first appeared on the blog The Publicity Hound.