What To Do When The Media Calls?


The media: they can invoke excitement in some and nerves for others, especially in times of crisis. There’s no denying that it can be very stressful when a reporter comes calling. Questions begin to fly through your mind at warp speed: Should I do this interview? What am I not supposed to say? Am I on the record right now? What happens if I make a mistake? Am I even allowed to be talking to the media?

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, see this as an opportunity to share your story and reach your target audience, whether that is investors, customers or other industry leaders. But to ensure you have a successful interview, you must have all the information. Use these guidelines to be well-prepared the next time the media calls:

  1. Learn more about the story, their angle and what they’d like to hear from you. It may be the reporter’s job to ask questions, but it doesn’t mean you can’t ask them, too – especially before you agree to do the interview. Don’t let your nerves get in the way. This is your time to ask questions so you fully understand the opportunity. It can be helpful to also ask who else or what other organizations are participating in the story so you can tailor your messaging to stand out.
  2. Find out the reporter’s deadline but never feel like you need to respond right away. Ask to call the reporter back with your responses later that day. This allows you to get your messaging in place and consult with your PR agency of record or your communications team. It also gives you time to research the reporter and see past stories they’ve written on the topic. By doing research ahead of the interview, you’ll be able to understand how much knowledge the reporter has on the topic so you know how much detail you will need to provide.
  3. Ask about the logistics of the interview. For broadcast, will this be taped or live? Does the reporter want to do the interview on-site or at their studio? If they’d like the interview to be on-site, will a photographer be joining them to take photos of the location as well? Remember to ask how much time the interview will last as well so you can be prepared and not feel rushed. You also don’t have to agree to spend unlimited time with the reporter.  You can limit it without upsetting them or negatively impacting the outcome.
  4. Request the interview questions prior to the interview. While the reporter won’t always agree to do this, it never hurts to ask. And, if they won’t share the exact questions, you can get a sense for what they plan to ask by asking them “How do you see this story?” This helps you or your spokesperson practice their responses and find the right soundbites for each question.  You can also ask some reporters to see the story before it’s filed.  They may say no, or just allow you to verify your quotes.
  5. Remember to get the reporter’s name, phone number and email. Of course, be sure to ask what media outlet they are doing a story for.
  6. Ask when the story will air or be published. After the interview, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the story and be the first to share with your leadership team and key stakeholders. If you don’t see the story when you expect to, you should feel free to reach out to the reporter to ask about when it will appear.
  7. Don’t forget to breath. Relax and take the time you need to conduct the interview on your terms. This is your chance to tell your story.

With all of this said, you should not necessarily agree to every interview request.  In some situations, it’s better to provide a written statement instead of an interview.  And, in others, it’s better not to say anything at all (but this isn’t the case if you know the reporter’s going to write about your organization no matter what).

If you follow this, the next time your phone rings or an email pops up in your inbox, you’ll be prepared and may even look forward to a new opportunity to share your message with the media and thus, the industry, customers, potential clients and the public.