By Susan Tomai, Founder
No words strike fear into the hearts of communications professionals quite like the following:
Company executive to communications professional in elevator: “Hi Jen – love that jacket! Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you I had a great conversation with a reporter from XYZ News yesterday. She called me in my office and I was free, so I talked to her. She asked me some tough questions but I think I handled them well.”
Yikes! Talk about a potential recipe for disaster. The executive probably was caught off-guard, and probably didn’t deliver information in a disciplined way that supported the company’s interests.
We tell all our clients that the communications pros should be in the loop of every official contact with journalists by anyone in your organization before, not after the fact. This applies to the receptionist all the way up to the CEO. So if a reporter calls you or anyone else in the company out of the blue, here’s what to do:
Company executive picks up ringing phone in her office: “Hello, Jane Smith.”
Reporter on the other end says: “Hi Jane, this is Deborah Brown from XYZ News. I have a few questions about your company’s outlook for 2017.”
Company executive says: “Deborah! So nice to hear from you. Listen, I’m right in the middle of something. Please give me your number and we’ll get right back to you.”
Then, after hanging up the phone, the executive should then call the company’s communications lead. That person will then make the decision as to whether the company wants to be involved in the story, who should do the interview, and what the messaging should be. You may be “just trying to be helpful” with the reporter, but communications is a team effort, and if you don’t involve the people who know how it’s done, you’re asking for trouble.