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Top tips on how to speak to the media

It’s been a long day. A crisis erupted at work and you and your colleagues have been flat-out trying to make amends to something completely out of your control. You sit down for a team meeting to take a breath…

It’s been a long day. A crisis erupted at work and you and your colleagues have been flat-out trying to make amends to something completely out of your control.

You sit down for a team meeting to take a breath, recalibrate and assess the damage. Then your phone rings. It’s a journalist from a well-known NZ media outlet – they are right outside your front door and they want a comment from you on your organisation’s aforementioned incident.

Do you?

  1. Hang up the phone and lock the door
  2. Give them the full play-by-play and inadvertently divulge sensitive company details while posing for a photo in front of your brand signage
  3. Do nothing

The answer: none of the above. Learning how to speak to the media is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most business owners and C-suite executives, but it’s an essential string to your bow. Thankfully, media management and communication skills can be learned to ensure you have a positive and transparent relationship with journalists, as well as your audiences who consume media every day.

Scope Media are specialists in media training and media relations. Three of our team members are former mainstream media journalists and we’d love to share with you our tricks of the trade via a media training session, one-on-one interview or a press conference simulation. In the meantime, here are our top tips on how to speak to media.

Top tips on how to speak to media

Knowledge is power
Know your brand inside and out and be briefed by other members of your team to ensure you are across every aspect of the business or incident before fronting up to the media. Provide accurate details as well as context.

Plan, plan, plan
Anticipate any difficult questions from media and rehearse your responses to them.

Nominate a spokesperson
Nominate one senior team member to consistently communicate with the media on behalf of your organisation. Having a “go-to” person helps to build rapport and trust with journalists – think Dr Ashley Bloomfield throughout all Covid-19 comms.

Be transparent
If you can share information with the media, then do so. If you are not in a position to share information, clarify that with a simple statement such as: “We don’t know the answer to that question yet but we will release that information as soon as we can.”

Don’t say nothing
Saying nothing is often not the best communications strategy – this leaves media, as well as your stakeholders and customers, open to assumptions.

While it’s important to not let a journalist pressure you into releasing information prematurely, it’s best practise to provide accurate answers to media questions ASAP. If a reporter calls you and you aren’t prepared, simply ask: “Can I please call you back in 15 minutes?”

Use this time to solidify details and prepare your comments or statement, then return the call.

Be confident
Be confident, clear and concise about your answers and your brand’s messaging – don’t be ambiguous, rambling or vague as a good journalist will see right through this. If you are put on the spot by a particular question that you don’t know the answer to, be honest about this and share the answer later once you have had a chance to obtain the information.

Know the rules of engagement
If you reveal information that is off the record, ensure the journalist knows this in advance. Journalists are bound by professional ethics so if something is declared off the record, it cannot be reported. Feel free to ask the journalist questions, too: What is their angle? When will the story run? Who else will they be quoting in the story? What images are they planning on running with it?

Be approachable and responsive
Send a journalist that hi-res image and provide that quote. Modern media are very under resourced – time is of the essence so any help from your organisation will be appreciated and remembered. Build a rapport with media and make them feel like they can approach you at any time.

Take the opportunity
Use the opportunity to educate media on your business, your product or service and its advantages. Tell your brand story. Use your judgement before deploying this tactic, however – in certain situations such as a crisis, it’s best to stick to the issue at hand to avoid coming across as insensitive.

Don’t be afraid to be human
Show emotion, enthusiasm, empathy and the human side of your brand in your words as well as your mannerisms. Be yourself and let your personality shine through!

If you need some professional advice on speaking to the media, get in touch to find out about our customised one-on-one or team media training sessions. We’re also here to help with any urgent media enquiries and we love nothing more than preparing a press release to get your message to the masses.

Written By Rebecca Williamson
An accomplished journalist, writer and editor, Rebecca has worked on some of NZ’s top-selling magazines – including Woman’s Day, CLEO and Good Health – and knows how to craft compelling copy to get your company or organisation noticed. As a PR strategist and skilled storyteller, Bec’s day-to-day varies from creating effective communications plans and newsworthy media releases to editing bespoke publications and achieving high-value TV, print and online media coverage for Scope Media partners. She also has a knack for the digital space – specifically, how to boost a brand’s online presence, and writing SEO-loaded web copy, blogs and thought leadership articles that people want to read and engage with.
rebecca@scopemedia.co.nz

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About Scope Media

Scope Media is a boutique marketing communications consultancy that specialises in digital PR. The consultancy helps brands gain visibility through the power of authentic storytelling, personal connections and digital insights. Scope Media offers strategic communications, crisis communications and reputation management, community engagement and stakeholder relations, digital PR, media relations and media releases, editorial and special publications, website copywriting for SEO and digital advertising.