A Reporter Just Called, What should I do? Media Relations Tips from a Pro…

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Your message light is blinking. You check it, and a reporter from your daily paper wants an interview. What do you do next?

This is the perfect opportunity to begin establishing yourself as a reliable, credible source for interviews.

Here are 10 tips for handling the call:

1. Drop everything. Chances are the reporter is on deadline and needs a quick response. If you don’t provide it, the reporter will go elsewhere – this time and next.

2. Return the phone call. It is important to maintain a channel of communications with reporters, even if you don’t have the answer to the question this time. Reporters will respect you for calling back and certainly keep you on the list for the next applicable story.

3. Ask the reporter for the deadline. If you need to respond with additional information, make sure you do so in a timely fashion.

4. Feel free to ask for questions in writing. Most reporters are more than willing to supply these, as it allows interviewees the opportunity to better prepare.

5. Send follow up information such as fact sheets, press releases and photos. However, try not to inundate the reporter with unnecessary information. They have limited time to review it, and you want the story to be focused on your key messages.

6. Don’t ever ask to see an article prior to publishing. Unless this is a paid advertorial, you will insult the publication with this request. Respect them for the professionals they are and let them report the story.

7. Give short answers to questions. In general, you want to limit your answers to one or two short sentences. Again, stick to your key messages, and it will be easier to ensure that your interview stays on track.

8. Follow up with an email after the interview. This is a great time to send bullet points to the reporter with your key messages or to ask when the story runs.

9. Find out what other stories they are writing. If the initial interview goes well, make sure to ask them to call you back in the future. Also, this is a great time to pitch your own story ideas to them.

10. After the article runs, send a quick hand written note or an email saying thanks for the coverage.

Reporter relationships are valuable to you and your company. Treat reporters with respect, and they will do the same for you. Remember, all relationships are two-way streets. This one is no different!