When the Phone Rings

What To Do When The Phone Rings Unexpectedly
By Susan Tomai, Founder, Oratorio

You’re in your office tackling your usual 97 daily tasks, and the phone rings. You don’t recognize the number, but you pick up because you think it might be important.

“Hello, Jane Smith here,” you say.

And the voice on the other end says “Hello Ms. Smith. I’m John Jones with Channel 6 and I’d like to ask you about…”

What do you do in this situation? Do you stay on the line and try to answer the reporter’s questions as best you can? 

In our view, that’s a recipe for trouble. It’s never a good idea to speak on the record on behalf of your organization before you know what you want to achieve in the interview – or whether you want to do the interview at all. So here’s what we recommend:

When the phone rings and the reporter starts in, you say:

“John, I’m so glad you called but I’m right in the middle of something. Tell my why you’re calling and give me your number.”

In doing this, you don’t commit to anything and you don’t go on the record unless and until you choose to and you’re ready. The reporter will probably persist and try to get you to answer the questions – but remember, you should only do an interview if it’s in your interest.