How to Respond When a Reporter Calls

You can spend a lot of time on the phone calling and pitching to the press on stories you want them to cover. But news coverage is a two-way street. Reporters are just as likely to call you about something they’re working on, and frequently without advance warning. So what do you do when the phone rings?

Preparation is the key to becoming comfortable with media calls and interviews. Here are some quick tips on what to do when a reporter calls:

1. Find out as much information about the reporter and the story as you can, including:

  • Publication
  • Contact info – email & phone number
  • Deadline
  • Story angle
  • Who else they’re interviewing
  • If they need a quote or a full interview

2.    If you're interested in the opportunity, and want to respond to the inquiry:

  • Tell the reporter you’re interested and ask if you can call them back to provide a quote and answer their question/s. Never respond on the spot.
  • Ask if they have a deadline or when they would need to hear back, and if possible, give them a callback time and make sure to follow through on that time.
  • Google search the reporter to help understand what kind of reporting they do and to verify that they are credible.
  • Prepare for the interview with facts, figures and dates to back up key points.
  • Pull together a list of key points that you want to communicate. Look at them as standalone comments and look to see if they could be taken out of context and make adjustments. 
  • Make sure you meet the reporter’s deadline.

3.    If you don’t want to respond:

  • Make a recommendation as to who would be a better source for their story. If you go above and beyond to help a reporter out, you`ll be number one on their speed dial when they have another related story.

Remember these simple steps and rest assured that when you take that call your feelings of nervousness and panic will be transformed to calmness and control.