Frequently asked questions about Christopher Elliott’s media queries

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Christopher Elliott’s media queries. You can receive my media queries weekly by signing up for my media leads newsletter.

Who are you?

I’m an author, advocate and journalist. Here’s more information about me.

What’s a media query?

A media query is a public request for sources or information on a developing news story sent via SOSProfnet or social media.

If you’re reading this because you responded to one of my media queries, I want to let you know how grateful I am for offering to help. I’ve compiled a list of common questions to address your queries. Please review these questions before responding to my query.

Do you acknowledge every response?

Whenever possible, I send out a form acknowledgment letting a prospective source know that I received a response. Since media queries can sometimes generate hundreds of responses, I can’t always send a personal acknowledgment. I wish I could.

Are there any queries you don’t respond to?

If you are working with an SEO expert to place links in a story, I am unable to respond to your query.

When will the story run?

I sometimes file my stories several weeks or months in advance. But my editors may choose to run the articles sooner or to hold the articles indefinitely. Please do not call or email me asking when the story will run

Am I in the story?

If you’re in the story, I’ll do my best to make sure you see a draft or an excerpt of your contribution and have a chance to make any comments, suggestions, or corrections. If you don’t hear from me with a fact-checking query, it’s safe to assume you will not be in the story.

How do I get into the story?

The easiest way to get into one of my articles is to read my question carefully and answer it in simple language. Often, sources start with their messaging — they have a product or service to sell — and try to squeeze a product mention into the response. That results in a lengthy answer filled with buzzwords in which they argue that I should include their company. But it doesn’t answer the question.

If you start by answering the question, keep your answer short and written in simple English, you have an excellent chance of being included in the article.

I’m a blogger/publicist/writer. Can you include me in your story?

Generally, no. My editors take a dim view of quoting other writers. It’s the equivalent of interviewing my newsroom colleagues for a “man-on-the-street” story. If you’re a blogger, SEO specialist or digital marketing expert, I probably can’t feature your comments.

I linked to a recent story or blog post when I responded to your query. Will that work?

Links sometimes get lost when I’m moving copy around. Please don’t send query responses that say, “I recently wrote about this topic. Here’s a link.” Instead, paste the full text of the story.

I sent a product sample. Does that guarantee I’ll be in the story?

Unfortunately, no. I request samples to familiarize myself with a product. I consider requests for product samples very carefully. If I’ve asked you for one, there’s a good chance — but no guarantee — you’ll be in the final article.

Please do not follow up with me to make sure I’ve received a sample. Instead, use UPS, FedEx, or USPS postal tracking to ensure the sample has been delivered. Please do not follow up to make sure I need anything else. I will contact you if I have questions. Finally, please be aware that I can’t return samples. Samples are donated to charity after I’m finished evaluating them.

Can you guarantee a link to my site?

No. Although I sometimes include site URLs in my draft, particularly when it’s directly relevant to a story, featuring them in the final version is my editor’s decision. Some outlets link back to sources liberally, others don’t. I can’t guarantee a link. Please do not ask me for one.

Could you at least refer to my company in your story? After all, I’m responding because I’m interested in getting some publicity.

I always include the full name of a source in my stories. I include the name of a company or organization in a story when it directly relates to the topic. For example, if I write a story about legislation and you represent a nonprofit organization that lobbied for the new law, I would probably include your organization’s name. If you’re a citizen who would be affected by the law, but you work for a company that sells widgets, and are trying to generate a little publicity for your employer, probably not. Stories are not advertisements. I can’t guarantee a mention of a company or product.

Can I submit a response with a general attribution, such as tips from a company?

Please don’t. All responses must be attributed to a real person to be usable. I can’t publish a general response on behalf of a company, such as buying tips from company X.

How about a product or book? Can you give me a shout-out?

If it’s relevant to the story, absolutely. But I can never guarantee it.

I spent a lot of time writing a response to your query. I think I deserve to be in your story. Am I right?

Sadly, no. You’re submitting your response on spec. Although I would love to use every response I get, there simply isn’t enough space.

If you can’t guarantee a mention of my company or product, I don’t want to participate in your story. Can I withdraw my response?

No. All emails sent in response to a media query are considered “on the record” in accordance with accepted journalism practices.

I want to help with your story, but I’d rather remain anonymous or use a pen name. May I do that?

If you’d like to remain anonymous, please tell me in your initial response. Unfortunately, I’m unable to grant your request for anonymity retroactively. My news outlets have strict rules about naming sources, so generally, they don’t allow me to cite anonymous sources or to use a pen name.

May I place any restrictions on the material after I send it to you?

No. By sending me information, you are giving me permission to use the information freely in the story. It is understood that it is not covered under copyright law, and that you agree to not retroactively claim there is a copyright on the information.

You shared a partial draft of your story with me, and I don’t like it. Could you remove me from the story?

Generally, no. The response you sent me was on the record. The only time I would consider removing a source is when he or she can show that their personal safety would be threatened by their inclusion in the story.

I want to arrange a telephone interview with my client or want to be interviewed myself. When can we set that up?

I make my email queries as detailed as possible. They contain all of the questions I would ask during a phone interview. If you’re interested in being featured in the story, kindly consider sending a detailed email with your thoughts on the topic. Please do not send a response offering an interview with your client or yourself.

Can you send me a link to the story when it’s published?

Unfortunately, because of the high volume of responses, I’m unable to contact each source individually when a story is published. However, I make every effort to share the articles via social media and through my newsletter. I would encourage you to sign up for either my daily newsletter.

My client wants me to follow up on this story opportunity by phone. How can I reach you?

My number is (202) 370-7934.

Will this story appear in print or online?

The news outlet is always listed in my query. I’m hopeful that the answer is “both” but I normally don’t know until the story is published. I am not told in advance by my editors.

What does “syndicated” mean?

Many of my stories are not written for a single outlet. Some are distributed through King Features Syndicate, which transmits them to newspapers that include the Chicago TribuneMiami Herald and Seattle Times, among others. Others are self-syndicated to a list of more than 2,000 publications, which include ForbesMedium and my Substack newsletter, Elliott Confidential. I heavily promote all the stories on social media. (Let me put it to you this way: I almost never get complaints about my stories being under-exposed.)

I’ve been interviewed for your story. You ran a fact-check, but the story never appeared. What’s going on?

Rarely, a story I work on will not be published. I try to let my sources know when an article is spiked, but am not always able to. (If you think that’s bad, consider that I don’t get paid for stories that don’t run.)

I want to make my response “off the record.” Can I do that?

Yes. If you want something to be “off the record,” please say so in your initial response. This includes any media embargoes or sensitive information. You can’t make something “off the record” retroactively.

May I pitch you on a different story?

Yes, and I hope you will. I would strongly recommend that you review my work to get an idea of what kinds of topics I write about.

Got a question you’d like us to answer in the FAQ? Please send me an email.