If you want to get your news covered and promote your company, you need to build quality relationships with the media. Media relations takes time and ongoing effort, but if you’re willing to put in the work, it can pay off big time once you earn the trust of the right reporters. Of course, while building that trust with a reporter takes a lot of time and effort, losing it forever takes just a moment, and sometimes, you might never be able to regain it, particularly if you make the one unforgivable media relations mistake we’re about to discuss.

batter about to hit a pitch during a baseball gameSo, what’s the one thing you absolutely can’t do when dealing with the media? What’s the one thing that will get a reporter to write you off forever?

Perhaps the most unforgivable mistake you can make when dealing with a reporter is to leave her hanging at the last minute by not being available and responsive. If you’re going to go through the trouble of pitching the media, you’d better make yourself available to them. When they come knocking, you need to be responsive, and if you promise to be available for a conversation, you need to keep that promise or else be prepared to burn that bridge forever.

In a recent Inc. article, Erik Sherman, a journalist whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, New York Times, and countless other publications, said, “Responding after a deadline has passed is silly, as the ship has already sailed. If you suddenly can’t help, then let the reporter know immediately. I’ve written off companies and entire agencies that left me stuck at the last minute with no reasonable explanation.”

That last sentence says it all, really. If you’re going to offer to be a source, you can’t disappear when the reporter comes to talk to you. Otherwise, you’ll be placing that reporter in a tough situation as they’re forced to scramble to find another source or story to meet their deadline.

In the event that something does come up and you’re suddenly unable to be there for the reporter, let her know ASAP. Things do happen, and if you have a reasonable explanation and don’t make a habit of bailing on the reporter, all will likely be okay. But what is never okay is to just disappear without explanation when you’re supposed to be there for the reporter. If you do that, it’s one strike and you’re out.