How to respond to a reporter’s initial inquiry: So, a reporter reached out; how do you handle it? If you answered the call, take down the reporter’s contact information, news organization, deadline, topic, and, if possible, how they decided to call your organization. If you received an email, follow up with them to make sure you have that same information. In both cases, let them know that you will look into it and will follow up if you can help. Don’t promise to get back to them if there is a chance that you don’t want to do the interview.
Now it is time to do your research. The first question you need to answer is, does this story help, hurt, or is it neutral to your organization.
If the story will help your organization, put together your spokesperson, messaging, and the timing for when the interview should take place and reach back out to the reporter. Let’s make it happen, that’s great news.
If the story will hurt your organization, put together your strategy on if it is better to be a part of the story (best), not be a part of the story or worst to not respond at all. If you choose not to respond, you should let the reporter know that you are not going to have a response today. Be kind, be polite, but don’t say “no comment.” Be honest, tell them you are looking into the matter, that your CEO is not available as he is traveling internationally or whatever else might be the cause of your not wanting to be interviewed at that time. If you are going to respond, get your spokesperson, messaging, and the timing together and schedule it with the reporter. Be honest, don’t lie to get out of the interview, it will come back to haunt you.
If the story is neutral to your organization, think if there is a way to get a positive. One method may be helping a reporter out, as they are people just trying to get a job done too. If you have information that can help a reporter and it is neutral to your organization as well as your partners, help a reporter out.
Media relations comes down to your ability to develop relationships with the media. Sometimes it will be a one and done interview, but sometimes it will be a lasting relationship that will include years of emails, calls, and conversations. In either case, your ability to form a positive relationship quickly and then maintain it will benefit your organization immeasurably.
If you don’t have a dedicated person doing media relations for your organization, please reach out to MPR. We would be happy to talk with you about what we do and how we might be able to help. Murnahan Public Relations, 420 Throckmorton St, Ste 200, Fort Worth, TX 76102 – Call us: 817-502-1080 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Brian Murnahan