Five things to do when a reporter calls

Photo of a reporter at work being filmed

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It’s so exciting when a reporter calls and wants to write a story about your organization or wants to get a quote from your organization. But don’t let your excitement distract you from what your job is. Your job is to put out the most useful, accurate information and to stay on message. You can do this quickly and easily.

When your phone rings there are two initial steps:

1- Ask the reporter what their deadline is (or timeline), what their angle is, and if they already have a specific spokesperson from your organization in mind.

2- Get their phone number and email so that you can be back in touch with them. Don’t ever just give them a “quick quote” without pausing, even for a few minutes, to think this through. Tell them when you’ll call back to them and set a timer (I’ve used my phone’s timer) to remind you.

Then get off the phone. Grab whoever else in your organization is responsible for media strategy, or for helping you think through media strategy. Do the next two steps with them.

3- Review who this story is for (which of your key audiences), what your key messages are, who is the best messenger. Make sure that you’re addressing the reporter’s angle. If you want to use a different spokesperson than who the reporter asked for, just be prepared to explain why they are a better fit for this reporter’s story or angle.

4- Practice before you talk with the reporter. If you’re not the spokesperson, have that person practice with you. Don’t talk to the media without practice. 

Then call back the reporter and keep your eye out for the story!

Other resources on media relations:

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