Posted by David Oates 5 years, 8 months ago


It is Friday at 3 p.m. You are dealing with the normal stresses of work while multitasking is at its finest. Your coffee buzz is wearing off and at the worst possible time the phone rings; it’s an unexpected call from a reporter. You panic and a shot of adrenaline rushes through your body. Your brain kicks into overdrive and your instincts tell you to immediately start answering their questions. But before you start talking, you pause, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are in control of the interview. You remember these seven steps (or at least a few of them) to help you deliver the best possible information to the reporter, get quoted the way you want and represent yourself and your company in the best possible light.

1. Don’t just start rambling.
It may be tempting to talk right off the bat, but remember everything you say is fair game to be used as a quote. This means that you need to be strategic about your answer because you only get one shot.

2. Ask your questions before you answer theirs.
Any reporter will understand that you want to be prepared ahead of answering their questions or talking about a particular topic/issue. With that said, make sure to follow these steps before you start talking:
• Get their name, contact, and the media outlet they are with.
• Make sure you understand the type of information they are looking to receive.
• If you are not prepared, or it is a sensitive issue, politely ask if you can call them back to provide a quote and answer to their question/s.
• 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.

3. Write down what you want to say.
You can write down key points to make sure you stay on topic, or even better if you have time, write word-for-word what you would like to say. This way you know exactly what your quote is and how it will read – sometimes things sound great verbally but come across different in print.

4. Know your facts.
Be prepared with facts, figures and dates to back up key points. Providing these details will increase the likelihood of you being quoted. Also, when gathering facts, think in terms of what the public might want to know – anticipating the reporter/reader questions and interests will help you be prepared. It is common that reporters will want to know your revenue (particularly if it is a business story). We come across this a lot and it is often a question that our clients don't always feel comfortable answering. If you don't want to disclose actual revenue, have a different metric to quantify size or growth (i.e. number of employees gained, growth as it relates to clients/contracts, area serviced, etc.)

5. Stress important points by “framing” your comments.
Prefacing important points with phrases like “The bottom line is…” and “What the public should really know is…” indicates that the point that follows is important; it also increases the chances of what you want to get into the article does.

6. Reverse roles.
Often times a reporter might not know the right questions to ask – they may start with an open ended question to get you talking, but it puts the power in your hands if you actually have questions in mind that the reporter should be asking you. Make sure to write them down so you are prepared and know exactly how to phrase them. This can often times help you control the direction and tone of the story.

7. Context is key.
To avoid comments taken out of context, look at each statement as a standalone comment. If it appears as though it could be taken out of context, make sure you adjust it accordingly.

When you find yourself caught off guard by an unexpected call from a reporter, remember that it is okay to ask to call them back before answering any questions. In doing so, you have time to prepare and make sure that you deliver the best possible comments and quotes. 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. 


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