MEDIA RELATIONS: How to make dealing with a reporter’s media query less stressful

The greatest fear of someone new to dealing with media queries is simply this… answering the phone to journalists.

The nightmare runs along the line of a phone rings and at the end will be an angry person demanding answers NOW.

That’s the fear. The reality is very different, of course.

In life as in anything, preparation leads doubt and doubt leads to worry.

Here’s a simple approach.

Not all reporters are scary

First things first. Not all reporters are scary. They’re just trying to do a job just as you are trying to do a job. They need your help to get the right information. You need them to tell people about the job your organisation is doing. It’s a two way street.

I was a reporter for 12-years and I worked in a Press-heavy comms team for eight years. I’ve asked thousands of questions of press officers and I’ve answered thousands, too.

Here’s your script

Here’s what you need to know when dealing with a media query.

If you ask the reporter:

  • What’s your name?
  • What’s your publication?
  • What are your contact details?
  • What’s your question?
  • When’s your deadline?

Top tip: read the question back to them and email it back as a confirmation that you are on the same page.

You won’t go far wrong.

A more experienced reporter may try and pump you for a steer before you’ve gone and checked out the information. A couple of occasions as a press officer I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to give unapproved information to help a reporter on a deadline. It’s not always ended well.

One time I told someone what I knew. Turns out it wasn’t all accurate. It came back on me. Yes, I was quoted. No, it wasn’t ideal. I did it once.

I realised at this moment that name, publication, question and deadline was what I’d stick to from here on in. Even if I had some background knowledge.

One time I was buttered-up by a reporter who asked me how long I worked there. “Five years,” was the answer. Five years? Then I clearly knew more than I was letting on.

I stuck to the script.

This formula may seem simple.

But the best ideas always are simple.

Simple.

I help deliver ESSENTIAL MEDIA RELATIONS workshops to help people with the proactiove and the reactive of dealing with journalists. More here.

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