Journalists often get a bad rap. They’re sometimes called ambulance chasers or accused of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. The truth is, they are professionals who are trying to serve the public.
Do they get things wrong sometimes? Absolutely. The reality is they have multiple deadlines throughout the day, have to make sense of complex issues, and may work for people who care about ratings, sales and filling time.
Your job is to work with journalists, provide them with the information, and help them tell your story. It’s not your job to hide behind email statements, avoid their calls, or attack them.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. They tell your story, you help them tell it right. If you don’t, they will get the information elsewhere and it may not be accurate.
How to handle an interview request from a journalist
- Return the phone call or ask your communications staff to call back.
- Ask the Reporter’s Name.
- Find out which media outlet they work for. You need to know if it’s print, radio, tv, or online.
- Get information about their deadline. They typically want the story ‘yesterday’ but you can negotiate for more time if you need it.
- Find out what prompted the call to your office. It could be a customer issue, a positive human-interest story, or they are looking for a local ‘angle’ to a national story.
- Ask if there are other interviewees. Reporters don’t have to tell you but you can always ask.
- Determine how much the reporter knows about the issue or your organization. If it’s limited, offer to share website links or FAQ sheets.
Keep in mind you don’t have to commit to the interview right on the spot. People have the tendency to jump right in, feeling they can’t ask for more time to look into the issue or prepare their response. Whatever you do, don’t stall. That will become part of the story.
Regardless of the story focus, keep calm and be polite. The reporter is doing a job and it’s YOUR job to work with them and manage your reputation, as well as the reputation of your organization.
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