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BLOGTen tips for when the media calls

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, MediaTagged 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, or if it is a high-stakes query, 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, CEO of Digital Strategy firm Pinetree Advisors.
  10. Never ask to review their work or to see it prior to publication: it is unprofessional (and insulting to them.)


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!

Interviewer 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 that your organization is, the more likely that a designated individual is their official spokesperson.  If you are not this person, don’t pretend to be: your role is to forward the media enquiry onwards.

Does this topic resonate? Reach out to Randall: he can present it to your group.  (More presentation topics)
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