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Six Things to Remember When a Reporter Calls

Posted By Jess Myers, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interacting with the media can sometimes be intimidating, but it does not need to be. Following six simple tips for dealing with the media can help make the difference between a productive interview and a disaster.

1)     Be prepared. Or more accurately, don’t be unprepared.

You’re in the middle of nine things at once, when you get a call that you’re not prepared to deal with. So don’t. Ask what they want to talk about, ask for a few sample questions, and ask for their deadline. Politely tell the person on the other end that you will have to get more information and call them back. Then, vitally important, get the information, and call them back. Make yourself some notes that answer their questions, and underscore the main points you want to get across. Don’t go into the call if you’re unprepared.

2)     Know who you are speaking to.

If you get a call from the lifestyle writer for your local community newspaper, odds are they’re probably looking to write a nice, positive story, and it’s something in which you will want to participate. If you get a call from an investigative reporter at Dateline NBC and they have questions about policy, it’s probably something different and you should be more cautious.


In addition to knowing who you’re speaking to, anticipate their questions, and have thought-out, helpful answers ready.


3)     Everything is on the record.

When you’re talking to a reporter, you’re never “just chatting.” Everything you say, from the minute you say hello, to the minute you hang up, can and will be used. Saying, “this is off the record” means very little to most reporters. In fact, most will say “then don’t tell me” if it’s off the record.


4)     Don’t bluff.

Reporters can smell bluffing a mile away. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information. Let me get it for you or find someone who can answer that.” In fact, it’s much better to say that than to try to fake your way through an answer.

If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. Trying to bluff your way through an answer is going to leave the reporter unsatisfied, at best, and can be disastrous.

5)     If you’re asked about a problem, talk about a solution.

The mark of a great politician for years has been the ability to take a question about a problem and provide an answer about an opportunity. So for example, if a reporter calls and asks about a safety issue, talk about all of the strict measures in place to help prevent safety problems. If the reporter asks about an issue with a web site, and appropriate answer would be to cite all of the measures in place to find and fix web site problems. They ask about a problem, you talk about a solution.

6)     Don’t argue or debate.

The old adage on dealing with reporters has been, don’t get into a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel. Always remember, they will have the last word. At worst, say “we clearly see things differently, but let me look into that further.” And again, look into it further, and call them back.


If you have questions or concerns before the interview, speaking with a media relations professional can help. Even if it’s just for a few minutes before you conduct an interview, a professional can help develop talking points, relax and focus you, and remove some of the intimidation. Ewald Consulting’s media relations department is on call to help with these kinds of situations. Call or email anytime we can be of service.

Tags:  ewald consulting  media  public relations 

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