Customer Service and Journalists

Okay, I have already talked about media relations and customer service, so I’ll talk about journalists and customer service.

Generally, journalists provide customer service to a few groups of people:

  • Readers
  • Fellow journalists
  • Media relations people
  • Editors/non-journalist colleagues

Some may provide customer service to other people, but these seem like the main groups. Even freelance writers usually have an editor to deal with, but not usually as many non-journalist colleagues as a staff writer.

Readers

Journalists should respond to readers’ emails, letters, etc. A lot of newspapers and publications have a “Write the Editor” type thing, but a lot of times, readers will email the journalist directly. The journalist should respond to requests in a friendly and helpful manner and try and keep reply time as short as possible. If a reader points something out (i. e. misspelling, etc.), contact the editor and see if it can be corrected (easier to do with online stuff than print stuff) and thank the reader. If it can’t be corrected, contact whoever handles the corrections section. Just common sense: be nice, respond to contact inquires/requests, and so on.

Fellow journalists
Providing customer service to fellow journalists is often a bit trickier than providing customer service to readers. Journalists can generally be sorted into a few categories:

  • Accessible journalists. These are journalists who you may know from other things (working together before, etc.) or who are just plain accessible to everyone (they post and reply to emails, have a published phone number, etc.). They are generally the easiest to deal with.
  • Hard to reach journalists. Getting in touch with these guys can be more difficult. It is hard to find their email or get in touch with them about anything, and generally you have to know someone to get anywhere.
  • Plain busy. A lot of journalists are just very busy. I know some journalists who get several hundred emails per day and are always on the phone. They don’t try and make themselves hard to get a hold of, but you often do need to know someone to get in touch with them.

You have to approach each person accordingly. It also depends on what you want. Often, journalists will provide some tips about various subjects, but there are many occasions when they won’t. It’s best to try and help people when they need it (or offer help with things that you are good with) and then when you need help, you know who to ask.

With fellow journalists, the same rules apply. Try your best to help out, be nice, respond to requests/inquires accordingly, etc.

Media relations people

Your sole responsibility to media relations people is to provide them with your name, telephone number, your publication, and your deadline. You have no other obligations to them.

However, that is far from the case and only exists if you are the most influential writer in your field and if you are, you probably know the direct phone number, email, and address of the person you want to get in touch with or have a shared connection to find out.

If you aren’t such a journalist, you likely will have to be nice to media relations people and answer their questions. Media relations people will usually ask for a brief description of the article and any questions (if applicable) before even letting you talk to someone or talking to someone themselves.

Again, be nice to the media relations people, answer their questions promptly and accurately, return their calls, and if you can, write for The New York Times or Fortune Magazine and write wonderful things about their company. However, if you do all but the last, chances are they will try and help you out.

Editors/non-journalist colleagues

This one doesn’t require that much of an explanation. You have to be nice to your boss and provide customer service to him or her (it is called doing your job) and if you are mean to your colleagues and don’t do what they ask, you’ll be sure to have lots of problems later on.

I’m open and willing to get some topic suggestions. I am working on securing and getting a few interviews conducted and subsequently posted. However, if you have anything related to customer service or the customer service experience that you think would make a great post – please do let me know by posting a comment with your suggestion(s).