What to do when a journalist calls

What to do when a journalist calls

If you have done your research, know your target audience and the topics that the journalist / publication / platform covers then these efforts often result in success. It can be hard but rewarding work.

Sometimes, however, the journalist comes to you. Great! An opportunity to get some free publicity at little effort.

But without some prior planning and preparation, agreeing to an impromptu media interview can turn into a disaster for your brand and reputation.

Here are some tips for when the media calls.

Avoid doing an interview on the spot​

Even a few minutes to prepare can make all of the difference. Find out what the journalist’s deadline is and prepare your key messages.

Consider the questions you might be asked and practice your responses.

Find out about the journalist​

A quick Google search will reveal a list of stories they have recently covered and the channels and platforms that they report for. You’ll quickly get a feel for how they tackle stories and the tone that they take.

Don’t forget to check their Twitter profile. It can be very revealing what a journalist tweets. A scroll through their timeline will give you a fair idea of their worldview and their attitude towards your business and industry.

Find out about what the journalist wants to talk about​

It never hurts to ask what their angle is and any specific questions that they have. If you have a communications professional within your organisation or engaged externally, they can play an invaluable role in gathering this information for you.

Find out what the journalist knows ​

Sometimes the journalist will be very knowledgeable about the topic they are covering. Sometimes they won’t be. There will be a very big difference between putting your CEO in front of a senior business reporter with decades of experience, versus a junior general rounds reporter that has been assigned a story.

Knowing how much information you will need to provide (or to correct) will help in preparing for the interview.

Sometimes the journalist may not have anything, but is ‘fishing’ for a story. They’ve heard a rumour or received a tip-off and need a quote to verify the story.

This is where you need to tread carefully, prepare your key messages and stick to them (if you decide to do the interview at all).

Get back to the journalist quickly 

However you decide to proceed, always respond to media inquiries as quickly as you can. Even if it is just to confirm their deadline. If you decide not to proceed, let them know.

Again, having a communications professional in your corner can help with this.

What’s in it for you?

It is extremely unwise to jump at any opportunity to get your face on the TV or in the newspapers without first considering the strategic value of the coverage.

How it will be perceived by your customers and valuable stakeholders? How will it be perceived with potential investors, government or industry partners? What’s in it for you?

A classic example of this is when a journalist calls seeking a comment on a hot topic that may be affecting your industry.  

While at first it might seem like a good opportunity to get some free coverage at little effort, more often than not the journalist is looking for a contrary view to generate heat in a story.  

You might inadvertently find yourself cast as a vocal critic of a new government policy, or in opposition to a powerful lobby group. 

Maybe it’s better to leave the public comments to your peak industry body spokesperson.

If you have a trusted communications partner they can get to the bottom of the story and advise you on whether weighing in with a public comment is advisable.  

Don't let a small issue become a big one and do real damage to your precious reputation. At Elevate Communication, we can help you to identify and respond appropriately to emerging trends or issues that have the potential to disrupt or damage your business reputation. Get in touch today. 

Contact us now

Tags: #MediaRelations

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