Sometimes—out of the blue—a journalist may call for expert insight for a story they are writing. Perhaps they heard about a new development in your organization. Maybe they hope your executives can shed some light on an industry concern. Or there has been an accident or emergency related to your company or general location.
When an unexpected media contact occurs, do you have a protocol in place? If you don’t, it’s time to push up your shirt sleeves and create one now.
Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
GATEKEEPING: Begin by writing a companywide media policy, and then prepare a handful of key people in your company for potential interviews.
If a publication contacts anyone in your company—out in the field or inside the executive suite, alike—the publication should be directed to your head of marketing or media relations first. This ensures that a reporter’s time won’t be wasted, and that only relevant—and appropriate—information will be shared.
KNOW WHAT THE REPORTER NEEDS: Do what you can to honor a reporter’s deadline, but take the time to understand what they are looking for before answering questions. Are they looking for an opinion or an interview? Do they want intel about a competitor or insights into a rumor? Are they writing an in-depth piece, or a short news item? Any information shared with the media is fair game to be published, so fully understand what you are NOT supposed to discuss for a public audience.
THE INTERVIEW: Sometimes a reporter has a few quick questions that you can easily answer, and other times an interview with a specific person is required. Keep these simple rules in mind:
• Remember that interviews are conversations; intersperse your responses with pauses to encourage the next question, or to make sure the reporter understands what’s been said.
• Never share information that is “off the record.” In an interview, everything is “on the record.”
• Address only the subjects for which you have been cleared to discuss.
• It’s okay to say that you don’t know the answer to a question, but the phrase “no comment” means guilty as charged, so avoid using it.
• If your company places advertisements in the publication, it’s best not to mention it in an interview setting.
• Make sure you follow up promptly with any relevant information (photos, quotes, definitions, dates, etc.) and ask for any deadline dates that are associated with the story.
Advance preparation can take most of the stress out of an unexpected media contact. Get in touch with us at James Street if you'd like some help crafting your own collection of Media "Do’s and Don’ts."