10 Terrific Tips for Talking to Reporters

How to shine in media spotlight…

Regardless of whether you’ve had such an experience, it’s not always easy talking to reporters on the fly. Thus, some basic rules are helpful for those who are not PR pros.

1. Proceed with Caution

Follow the golden rule: if in doubt, leave it out.

Beware of random requests from journalists and always proceed with caution. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it’s your reputation on the line.

2. Know the Rules of Engagement

It’s imperative to fully comprehend the main types of attribution, or lack thereof.

3. Speaking On-the-Record

Here’s an example of on-the-record attribution: “According to John Doe, senior policy analyst of the XYZ corporation…”

4. Speaking Off-the-Record

Here’s an example of off-the-record attribution: “Multiple sources who asked for anonymity revealed the following…”

5. Speaking on Background

If a reporter asks why you can’t be quoted by name, simply explain you are not authorized to speak on-the-record, or the information you are conveying is sensitive in nature.

6. Be Responsive

It’s always better to provide an accurate response than an instant response which is wrong. If you can’t fully respond immediately then ask for a reporter’s deadline and meet it.

7. Tell the truth

Even telling reporters small “white lies” or not being completely candid can badly damage public trust, hurt consumer confidence and taint the brand image.

8. Don’t Comment on Everything

9. Confidentiality Counts

10. Educate Journalists

Try playing the role of professor and give the reporter an abbreviated lecture about your organization’s mission, goals, key issues and/or laws enforced. You will both be better off in the long run.

Final Thoughts

You can’t control when the press shop contacts you for immediate assistance on a media inquiry, or when a reporter surprisingly seeks you out directly.

Strategic comms consultant for social justice, DEI, CSR | prior career spokesman at U.S. EEOC, WH political appointee for Bill Clinton | DC-based, NY-bred

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