In order to be proactive in handing a potential media crisis, you should have a defensive PR strategy and it should start with how to handle incoming media calls. A media caller who is looking to see if there is any merit to a claim can usually make a determination by the reaction of the first phone call. By being prepared and creating a procedure you can avoid a media headache.
Create a point of contact to handle media inquiries then create a media inquiry sheet for the staff. Everyone should follow these simple media instructions (which should be placed somewhere near the phone).
MEDIA INQUIRY SHEET
Instructions for Responding to Media Inquiries that come via phone, email or in-person
(place near telephone)
DON'T ANSWER ANY MEDIA QUESTIONS
- Get the media caller's name, affiliate and contact information
- Put all media inquiries through to: (insert designated point of contact - usually the Communications Director)*
- If the designated point of contact is not available, please do the following:
- Get the media caller's name, affiliate, contact information and deadline
- Get the nature of the inquiry
- Let them know (insert designated point of contact) will get back to them as soon as possible
- Immediately notify (insert designated point of contact) at (insert cell phone number or email address)
*If the media caller asks for a specific person other than the designated point of contact, or starts to ask you questions, state the organization's policy (example below) and put the inquiry through to the designated point of contact.
It is the policy of (insert organization name) to direct all media inquires through to (insert designated point of contact). You can contact (insert designated point of contact) at (insert direct dial line, cell phone number or email). This individual will help you with your questions.
Designated Point of Contact's Response to Media
If you are the designated point of contact and are caught off guard by a media caller's inquiry or need more time to answer, follow these steps:
- Politely say something like "I'm right in the middle of something, can I get back to you?"
- Find out the media caller's deadline and assure you will get back to them in plenty of time
- Quickly do an Internet search on your organization to see what, if anything, is being said
- If you find something create some talking points
- Make sure all information on your organization is current
- Research media caller and affiliate
- Contact media caller and answer questions
- Should questioning become in-depth it is alright to tell media caller that you will need to obtain additional information and will get back to them before their deadline
By putting a few simple media procedures in place, your organization could prevent a potential crisis situation, (as well as a headache that could last many hours, day, or even weeks).