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Ten tips for when the media calls

by Randall Craig on December 26, 2014

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Media

Tagged as: , , , ,

The phone rings or an email arrives (or a Twitter direct message appears) from a journalist, asking for your opinion on a particular topic.  What should you do?

a) Panic

b) Answer their questions

c) ???

Journalists are half sleuth/half expert communicator:  they are paid to find out what is happening, and then make it both understandable and relevant to their audience.   They must do this every day, often on exceptionally tight deadlines, so if/when you are called by them, how should you respond?

Here are ten media relations tips that can improve your performance, help you avoid panic, and give the journalist what they need for their story:

  1. Return the call immediately – they are on deadline. The first source who responds will be used; the others will miss the boat.
  2. If you have the expertise to answer their questions, take the interview. If not, offer to refer them to someone who does.
  3. Brainstorm the most likely questions they may ask, along with a few point-form sound-bite answers for each.  Have more detailed answers ready, should they wish to probe.
  4. Ask if they are looking for any other sources for interviews: since you likely know your industry better than they do, this can help save them time.
  5. If there is enough time between the query and the interview, ask a colleague to role-play the interview.
  6. If it is a video interview, make sure that you are looking presentable.
  7. If it is a radio interview, make sure that there is some water nearby.  And take the interview with a landline telephone in a quiet room.
  8. Ask if they need any other resources for their story: pictures, or a picture of you.  If you have written a related short article recently, ask if they might be interested in seeing it for possible inclusion as a sidebar.
  9. Ask them to refer to you in the story in the manner of your choosing.  For example, depending on the nature of the media query, I am Randall Craig, Author of The Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, or Randall Craig, a Toronto-based management consultant, or Randall Craig, President of 108 ideaspace.
  10. Never ask to review their work or to see it prior to publication: it is unprofessional (and insulting to them.)

This week’s action item:  When the media calls, don’t panic: they called you because they believe that you have something of relevance to say on the topic.  This week, find some time to rehearse (and record) a mock media interview with a colleague. Practice makes perfect!

Social Media Insight:  Most traditional journalists are exceptionally well-versed on Twitter; monitoring your Twitter feed for media questions is critically important. Most bloggers have the same pressures that traditional journalists have, with the additional pressure of also running their blogging business.  No matter who reaches out, your subject matter expertise, your responsiveness, and respect for their pressures go very far.

Caveat: The more sophisticated the organization is, the more likely a designated individual is their official spokesperson.  If you are not this person, then your role would be to forward the media enquiry onwards.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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