If you’ve ever been the designated spokesperson for your company or organization, you know how challenging it can be to answer press inquiries. There are so many unknown variables that it’s hard to prepare in a brief amount of time. You might have to think on your feet and come up with new answers on the fly.
If you find yourself in this situation regularly, here are some tips for handling press questions more effectively.
1. Always respond promptly to media inquiries
Whether the reporter is looking for a story on your company or your industry, make sure that you’re accessible and eager to talk—no matter how busy you are. This will encourage reporters to reach out again in the future when they want quotes or insights from you or your team members.
Responding promptly and positively to media inquiries is key in maintaining your reputation. Your actions are being watched by the public at large, and they will hold you accountable for any transgressions—even small ones. If you don’t respond promptly, negative press could have serious consequences in terms of your reputation and brand image.
If someone has already written an article bashing your business practices or offering up some sort of criticism, responding quickly gives them a chance at redemption by showing that you are willing and able to address their concerns (and hopefully prove them wrong).
2. Establish ground rules with the reporter
If they’re coming to your office, let them know what hours the office is open and how they should get in touch with your staff. Similarly, if the reporter will be visiting you at your home, let them know what hours are best for an interview.
Establish if you want to be interviewed on the phone or in person. If it’s going to be over the phone, get somewhere quiet and away from distractions like music or other people who might be around you as well as any pets or children that may not understand what is happening during this process if they hear it at all (this is especially important when talking about sensitive information).
Identify the length of the interview, any topics you want to steer clear of and then stick by those guidelines no matter how much pressure they feel like they’re under while covering them!
Choose whether or not there is going to be any kind of deadline before publication/broadcast/etc., so everyone knows exactly when things will happen once they’ve finished talking.
It’s also a good idea to let the reporter know if you want to tape the interview. And if you don’t want your image shown in the story, let the reporter know that, too.
3. Keep your tone friendly and conversational
Even if you’re talking to someone on the opposite side of an issue, it’s important to keep your tone friendly and conversational. If you’re always professional and serious, you run the risk of coming off as unapproachable and defensive. Remember that you’re talking to people, not robots, and that there’s nothing wrong with being friendly and approachable.
Take a moment to organize your thoughts before answering a question so you can be factual and succinct. Reporters don’t want long-winded explanations; they want facts about the event or issue at hand (and why it matters).
Keep in mind that the more time you spend talking, the less time you have to field other questions.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification
Asking questions doesn’t make you look dumb or stupid; it shows that you’re interested in what people have to say and want them to consider their audience when speaking publicly on behalf of an organization or brand (which makes sense because those organizations are paying big bucks for the privilege).
5. Be aware of current events
Your interview may take place in the middle of a controversy or crisis. If you are not familiar with the situation, you’re more likely to make a misstep. Be in the loop and up to date on industry trends, economic trends, and relevant political news.
The reporter is looking for a spokesperson who has knowledge and expertise in a particular field. If you’re not an expert in the field they are writing about, you can say that you are not familiar with the incident, but will find out the facts and get back to them with an answer.
6. Don’t be afraid to say “no comment”
If it’s a simple yes or no question, then you can answer it quickly and move on. However, if the reporter asks a more complex question and expects an answer that will require some thought and research, it is better to say “no comment” so that they have time to come up with other options.
– You don’t know the answer –
This is probably one of the most common reasons why someone would say “no comment” in response to a reporter’s question. When you don’t know what something means or how something works (or even if it has happened), there is no way that you can provide an informed opinion or statement about it—and thus saying nothing is probably best!
– You’re not authorized –
Another reason why someone might not be able to talk about something is because they don’t have permission from their superiors yet—or perhaps they aren’t even allowed access themselves at all due to confidentiality agreements between companies and clients/patients/customers/etcetera…
You can always ask if the information will be published in the article, on the air, or online.
7. Sometimes it’s better to end the interview
If you feel that the reporter is being rude or disrespectful, it’s okay to end the interview. If they are asking questions that are not relevant to your story or trying to bait you into sayting something you don’t want to say, it’s okay to end the interview. It’s also okay for them not to get any more of your time if they have broken any of the pre-established rules for the interview.
It should go without saying that none of these things are grounds for destroying relationships with reporters. Use your own judgement.
Even tough questions can be answered easily if you’re ready for them!
The best way to handle press inquiries is to prepare in advance by reading the reporter’s work, knowing your organization and its goals, and answering questions as they come up. Remember that the reporter’s job is to get information and be informed. Your job is to protect your company and employees while answering their questions. If you find yourself unprepared, remember that the best way to deal with press questions is to have a strategy in place before they happen.
Although it can be challenging to prepare for these types of interviews, it’s also a great opportunity to get your organization’s message out to a wide audience. Be sure to follow these tips ahead of time to give yourself the best chance of success.