When a journalist or producer contacts a press office, the coverage you receive from the media can depend on how that call is answered.
So it’s important to get your tone right.
If your attitude is defensive or unhelpful or unfriendly, it can have two effects: it can simply annoy them (not good!) or it can alert them that you have something to hide (also not good).
Some trainees on media relations courses, when we rehearse them answering press calls, are amazed by how just one mis-judged response or stray word can affect the coverage they receive.
So, be positive, helpful and friendly.
Which is not to say you just roll over and hand everything to them on a plate – revealing all, with no regard to the consequences.
You need strike a balance between being helpful and friendly, and being firm.
And remember, they are trying to get information out of you. But first you need to get information out of them.
So, make sure you:
- Ask them where they are from
- Ask them what the story is they are calling about
- Find out the deadline
- Find out the publication date and time/when the programme will be broadcast
- Ask who else they are talking to and interviewing
- For broadcasters, ask the format of the programme & any interview (news/current affairs + debate, live, as live, phone in)
- Ask what they need from you – an interviewee, filming opportunities, photos
- And crucially, what are their contact details
If every press officer and PR has those key questions up their sleeve and ready, they should make sure you’re prepared for what the journalists expect and prevent your organisation getting caught out.
But remember – getting the tone right is first and foremost!