Dealing with Media Enquiries

Community Partnership and Funding Officer, Wendy Coombey being interviewed

When answering a call or an email from a reporter try to ask the following questions:

  • Name and position of caller?
  • Title of newspaper, radio or television station and programme or website? Or are they a news agency?
  • Staff or working in a freelance capacity?
  • What is their telephone number and email address?
  • What are they calling about?
  • What contribution are they looking for?
  • What timings are involved? (When is the contribution needed by?)

Offer to call back or ask them to call you back to give you some thinking time. If it is a very simple inquiry then deal with it straight away so that it does not grow.

In that time think about what you are going to say – work out a course of action, a possible statement or bullet points to work off. If others need to be consulted or contacted then do this.

Try to be brief and to the point. Reporters work under pressure and will appreciate straightforward conversation and clear information.

Contact the Communications Office for further guidance or advice – we would much rather find out this way than to read it in the paper.

Some other points

Be factual and clear when giving information to the media in a firm and friendly manner. When you speak to a reporter, you are speaking to the individual at home who is watching or hearing you.

Always answer questions in your own words and in complete sentences. A yes or no to a loaded question can have startling consequences.

Reporters are usually generalists, so their specialist knowledge may be limited. They are not employed to know the facts but how to find them.

Journalists write for their audience so expect to see your words paraphrased. The more clearly and simply you speak the less this will happen.

A good reporter will accept nothing at face value and so be prepared to be cross-examined. Think what people hearing about the issue for the first time would want to know.

Do not be bullied. You are not bound to answer every question. Try to control the interview in an astute and gentle way.

Be positive. A denial or a no comment response suggests you have something to hide. This could be a chance to clear up false rumours about a story. Situations can quickly magnify if people refuse to talk so be helpful and a reporter will usually respond in the same way.

Do not flannel – if the interview is not live then offer to call the reporter back with further details.

If you do not want it reported then do not say it. Try to give the reporter facts, which will dictate the angle of the interview.

Remember a newspaper journalist can put everything you say to them into print but radio and television should usually give you notice that they are recording.

Download these guidelines here.