In Part 1 of the Developing a Traditional Media Strategy series I discussed how to create a media contact list and best practices for writing and sending press releases. Today’s post will give you some advice on working with reporters once you have their attention.

Tips for working with reporters

  • No matter what you may have seen on television, there is no such thing as “off-the-record.” Don’t say anything to a reporter that you do not want to see in print.
  • When a reporter calls for an interview that you were not expecting, ask what the subject of the interview will be and if you can call them back immediately. Don’t get caught off guard in an interview. Ask the reporter about their deadline (this let’s them know you understand how the process works and lets you know your time frame). The time between the reporter’s initial call and your return call is your time to prepare for the interview. Jot down the talking points that you may want to use and gather any statistics and keep them in front of you as a reference. This will ensure that you stay on message and sound informed.
  • If you are at a social event with a reporter, watch what you say and how you act. A reporter is never truly off duty, so make sure you don’t do or say anything that would be an embarrassment to you or your organization.
  • Respect a reporter’s deadline. If you leave them hanging they will not come back to you for interviews or comments.
  • Keep your interviews to the facts. Don’t make baseless accusations, don’t whine, and don’t use ad hominem attacks.
  • Once you have completed your interview, ask when the story will run. You don’t want to miss it.
  • If you are going to interview in person or on camera, make sure you are dressed appropriately and are adequately groomed.
  • The pivot is your friend, as long as you are the one doing it. If you are doing an interview about increased youth turnout in your state, and the reporter is shifting the subject to something else, bring the interview right back. This is another one of those subtle arts, but you can learn from watching television interviews and talking to communications professionals. Just make sure to never be rude, condescending, or otherwise offensive, or your pivot will become a stumble.

Those are a few things to keep in mind when you are working with reporters. I an sure there is a lot more advice on this subject out there, so share it by leaving a comment.

Tomorrow’s post – Part 3: Media Monitoring