If you deal with a journalist in a way that is professional and helpful you can be sure they will continue coming back to you for relevant stories, whether you accept or decline the interview request.

Let’s look at the 10 steps you should take from the moment a journalist asks for your “expert comment”, until the story is published.

1. You receive a message from a journalist (or your company’s media manager, if you have one) who wants your comments for an upcoming story. It is critical to respond, irrespective of the answer, as soon as possible. Journalists have strict deadlines so cannot afford to wait all day for your reply (they will seek comment from someone else, maybe your rival company!), and if you do not respond they may not give you another opportunity for media exposure.

2. If you receive a call from a journalist direct or when you return their call, ask for details about the story, the news angle, and what they would like you to comment on. If you can’t come up with an immediate yes or no answer to the interview request, ask for a moment to consider and call back shortly. Don’t forget to speak with your boss (if applicable) before accepting the interview!

3. Being “media friendly” does mean saying “yes” whenever possible (obviously within reason – you don’t want to be involved in a story that will negatively impact your business or clients), but if you have a good reason to decline, apologise, and suggest the journalist calls back for any other relevant stories.

4. If the answer is “yes”, a print/online journo can do the interview then and there on the phone, so ensure that you are prepared when you call back (you may also be able to arrange a more convenient time if need be). Preparation should include considering your position in the story and how you can answer not only the journalist’s questions but also address the issues and questions that your stakeholders (clients, staff, associates etc.) may have. Also try and predict what curly questions might come your way and prepare an answer. For television reports, you will need to find a time and place to conduct the interview. Again, be wary of deadlines. For a 6pm bulletin, try to arrange the interview prior to 4pm when possible. This is also a good opportunity to stand in front of the company backdrop for a bit of extra brand exposure!

5. How to handle the questioning is a separate blog in itself, but in a nut shell it is important to be natural, open and speak clearly. Remember, if you are not entirely happy with your answer there is no shame in asking for another go (note: this does not work live on air!).

6. Following the interview, ask if the journalist requires any more information for their story. This gives them the chance to fill in the blanks (with facts) outside of your quotes. I also recommend asking who else will be quoted, and when the story is expected to run.

7. Advise the relevant people at your workplace when they can expect to see the published story. This ensures that everyone is prepared for any ramifications that may arise (e.g. an influx of new clients wanting your service, people requesting more information etc.).

8. Make sure you get the journalist’s business card with their contact details.

9. After the story has been published, contact the journalist and always thank them for the opportunity to speak. If you were pleased with how it turned out, let them know. If you had some concerns about the way the issue was reported, do not hesitate to respectfully discuss it.

10. Keep track of the issue that you commented on and if there is further information that you can offer, or more newsworthy revelations on the topic, contact with the journalist and offer your insight. This is a great way to build a mutually beneficial relationship that will give your company media exposure and the journalist much needed stories.

– Andrew Montesi

Apiro Consulting has extensive experience with local, national and some international media. Contact us for a chat about your needs.

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