Handling media requests for information is one of the most important elements during a crisis. Therefore a strict procedure is essential to ensure that calls are handled appropriately. Make sure that you designate only one person on the staff to respond to calls. Here’s what a reporter is likely to say:
- “I’d like to speak to the boss. I’m from (any news station, newspaper or magazine).”
- “I’m calling to find our more about the XXXXX.”
- “I’d like to speak to _____ about the recent TV program.”
Controlling Information Flow
- Ask the name, email, phone number and affiliation of the caller.
- Tell the caller that someone will get back to them very shortly. In most situations, reporters work on deadlines and your responsiveness can mean the difference between a balanced story or being misquoted.
- If reporters try to pressure you, saying it is a rush, that they are on deadline, politely say: “What time is your deadline? I will see that someone responds immediately.” It is never good to stonewall press.
- The person answering the call should never answer any of the reporter’s questions. Any answer, including an incorrect one, could easily be used and attributed to “a spokesperson” or “a source.”
- Be careful of statements like: “I don’t know anything about it.” This could be interpreted as “No one seems to know anything.” Instead say: “I am not authorized to speak for the company.”
- Important: If an executive answers the phone, do not answer any questions. Tell the reporter that you are on a bit of a deadline and will get back to them within 20 minutes. Make sure that you take a deep breath, write out the points you want to cover and messages you want to get through to the reporter before you do any interviews.
- Tell and remind employees that no one is authorized to speak on behalf of the company. Caution them not to post on websites or social media sites like Twitter or Facebook defending the company no matter how much they might like to. Monitor for negative comments or posts on news stories. If they occur, as the poster to send you their email address privately and respond to them personally to change opinion.