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Reporters routinely conduct interviews when researching a news story. They might ask someone for an opinion, a comment or an account of what happened to develop or corroborate a story. Companies often employ public relations staff to interact with reporters and the media and help shape the public narratives and perceptions about the company. When a reporter approaches you, first find out who he works for and what the story is about. Don’t be afraid to decline an interview with a reporter, but do be as honest and transparent as you can in the process.
Tell the reporter that you don’t have any information just yet. Do this if you’re the company spokesperson, something has just happened, the facts are still being sorted out and the company leaders haven’t yet decided what action to take or a similar scenario. Refer the reporter to a source who may have more factual information than you such as a government agency or a police department.
Advise the reporter that he would receive better information from a colleague of yours and that you would be happy to line up that interview. If the subject of the reporter's story is particularly technical, have a well-spoken company scientist do the interview instead, or for a big business story have the reporter speak directly with the company's CEO or another executive.
Be honest and tell the reporter that you would love to help him out but that you simply don’t have the time to answer his questions right now due to the large volume of media requests you've been receiving lately because of the recent tragedy, upcoming event, etc. However, reassure him that you would like to help him out and answer his questions in the future.
Refer the reporter to a previous interview. If you, your colleague or a predecessor has already covered the topic the reporter wants to speak to you about with the same or another reporter, refer the reporter to that interview and mention that everything you and the company want to say about the topic has simply already been said.
Always get back to reporters within 24 hours. Otherwise they may report that you simply declined to comment.
Don’t be nervous when talking with reporters and don’t give them any reason to think you have something to hide.
Sarah Rogers has been a professional writer since 2007. Her writing has appeared on Nile Guide, Spain Expat and Matador, as well as in “InMadrid.” She is also the author of “Living in Sunny Spain Made Easy.” Rogers often writes about living abroad and immigration law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and Spanish from San Francisco State University.
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