How to get your point across to reporters

The phone rings, and out of the blue a journalist is on the line asking you some tricky questions about your company’s activities. How do you handle it? Your company’s reputation may depend on the answers you give. Here are just three of our trainers’ tips:

1 Give yourself time to think about it

Don’t be afraid to call the journalist back rather than talking straight away off the top of your head – but find out when their deadline is and don’t leave it too late. Use the time to think through what you should be putting across, particularly in response to any tricky issues that are likely to be raised. Just saying ‘no comment’ makes you sound guilty.

2 Have something to say

If there are controversial issues in your area of expertise, work out where you stand, and don’t be afraid to put this across—assuming you can justify it, your viewpoint is probably as valid as anyone else’s. For the journalist this is more likely to provide interesting copy and get your name in the paper. Too many people say things like ‘oh we don’t really comment on issues like that’—and are then surprised when reporters don’t bother to call for their opinion next time.

3 Make it interesting and relevant

Use concrete examples which convey the reality of the points you are trying to make, rather than leaving everything theoretical. You will come over as more authoritative when you have facts and specifics to back yourself up. Remember to stress the points that are likely to interest the journalist’s readership, rather than just your own internal messages.