Don’t Let Your Media Spokesperson Answer Media Calls in the Dark
If you’re a media spokesperson does this sound familiar?
- Staff – Hey a reporter called to talk to you.
- You – Great. Who was it?
- Staff – She said her name was Bonnie.
- You – From what media outlet? What did she want?
- Staff – No idea. She just left her name and number. Here you go.
- You – Sigh.
Sadly, in most organizations, this is standard practice for how media calls are logged. They are treated the same as all the other calls, with only basic information being captured.
So what’s wrong with this approach? Many things. It means the media spokesperson is left returning calls in the dark, having little to no information to prep themselves for talking to the reporter. This is not only unprofessional, but could also result in an impromptu media interview that is way off message. Meaning a missed opportunity to share your story in a meaningful way. Amplifying your message, not weakening it.
There is a very simple way of maximizing media phone calls and potential interview requests. A media call form.
This is a simple one page form to help your staff (or you) capture the key information about the reporter (who they work for, deadlines) and the information he/she is looking for (focus of the story, who else he/she is talking to). Armed with a bit more insight, your media spokesperson (or you) can have a few minutes to prepare themselves before returning the call. This can mean the difference between a good interview and a wasted opportunity.
You can also use this form if you are the media spokesperson AND the person answering the calls.
Let’s look at the difference between returning a reporter’s call blind versus using a media call form.
- You – Hi I’m returning your call.
- Reporter – Yes. Your competitor’s product has been found in independent lab tests to contain lead. Is this the case with your product?
- You (stunned and taken off guard as you’re returning the call running between meetings, not at your desk) – Umm. I don’t think so. I don’t have the reports in-front of me, but it’s highly unlikely.
- Reporter – Shouldn’t you know this information so you can be confident you are protecting your customers?
- You – I’m pretty confident our product doesn’t contain lead. But let me check our latest lab test and get back to you.
- Reporter – This is pretty important information. I would expect you would be on top of your lab tests.
- You (now completely stunned and scrambling to find information on your iPhone) – I’m just heading into a morning of meetings. Can I call you back at 3 pm?
- Reporter – My deadline is in an hour. Thanks for your time.
With a media call form (which you’ve reviewed before returning the call)
- You – Hi Bonnie, I understand you’re looking for information regarding lead in our products. I have the latest lab tests to share with you to confirm our products are lead free.
- Reporter – How can you be confident your products don’t contain lead?
- You – I am confident our products are lead-free. We test our products monthly with our internal lab, and quarterly with an independent lab to ensure there are no false positives or negatives. I will email you the results from the last 12 months of testing.
- Reporter – What are your thoughts on your competitor using lead?
- You – At XYZ corporation we are committed to ensuring the safety of our products for our customers. This includes duplicate lab testing, which is beyond the regulation standards. I cannot speak about our competitor’s process. But I assure you, we take our commitment to safety seriously and know our customers trust us to protect them. I’m proud to say our products go through rigorous testing and are lead-free.
Do you see the difference between the two interviews? In the second, the media spokesperson had time to prepare. This includes quickly Googling media coverage, creating key messages (commitment to safety…products are go through rigorous testing…products are lead free).
Yes, this is an extreme issues management scenario, but it highlights how off topic, and messaging you can be when you’re not prepared. And how using a simple media call form will help your media spokesperson take time to prepare (if only a few minutes) before returning the media’s call.
What’s the process in your organization for logging media calls? Do you have a clearly defined media spokesperson? How is this media spokesperson prepped for returning media calls?
If you are the media spokesperson, and the person answering media calls, you can still use this media call form to get the basic information. Let the reporter know you’re in the middle of something (even if you’re not), ask them the questions on the form, and tell them you will call them back on a agreed upon time. Then do so!!
To help you get started, you can download the media call form for FREE. Just add it to your cart and at checkout enter spokespersontool.
Let me know how it works for you. Send me a message or comment below.
If you like this advice, sign up to receive more free advice from me.