For some professionals, seeing their caller ID show a news reporter’s name or the name of a local media outlet can make their heart skip a beat…and for different reasons.
It’s tempting to answer it, especially if your ego is telling you, ‘it’s all good, right?’ Or, ‘any publicity is good publicity.’ While I have given some reasons in previous writings to say yes to a reporter request for an interview, there are times when it’s best to just let it ring too.
First of all, whether your organization is big or small, have a plan for these kinds of requests. Comments to the media have impact and if you or your industry is in crisis, preparation is critical even before there is an inkling of a storm cloud.
Have a procedure or protocol in place and follow it.
That would mean getting everyone on the same page on how to answer if they unknowingly answer a call from a reporter. Most importantly who will speak for the organization? Will that be your Communications or Marketing Department person if you’re big enough for that, or will it be YOU…the Founder, CEO and Chief Trash Taker-Outer? You should have a contact person designated for this when stuff hits the fan.
“…don’t put yourself on the spot if it’s not necessary.”
If you are in crisis mode with your company and it has become public, you will likely get the calls. But as I have said before you must ask the following question of yourself.
Is there something to be gained, maintained or protected by answering the call and the questions?
If you’re still in the middle of finding out facts through an investigation, it’s likely not the best time to try to answer any media questions. They’ll likely leave a message, maybe with their question, maybe not, but don’t put yourself on the spot if it’s not necessary. Ask yourself the above question and answer it honestly.
Now…having said that I have spoken to reporters in those circumstances and told them an investigation is going on and there is little I can say except that it’s active and appropriate action will be taken if wrongdoing is found. By the way, that would be, in my opinion, an acceptable alternative to the dreaded ‘no comment’ statement that is the kiss of death. Even issuing a prepared statement would be preferable to ‘no comment.’ In many instances, the reporter knows you can’t say a lot, but they just want a sound bite or quotable response to show they asked the question. Just know that when the facts are known, and if you’re not in litigation over it, an explanation to media to clear your organization name or showing action was taken will be the gain we asked ourselves in the above question.
Steve Linscomb worked in the news media for 28 years. Since 2012, he has served as an official spokesperson for a public school district in the San Antonio metro area and is a freelance writer.