When a reporter calls: Four tips on how to stay in control

Earlier this month, I posted about the importance of in-person relationship-building with media and how the online world cannot entirely replace this. As part of our ongoing series on media relations, I now wanted to dive into the difficult task of staying in control when speaking with media, particularly when you’re caught off-guard and they’re on the other end of the phone.

We can all relate. It’s that moment that the phone rings and you don’t recognize the number on caller ID. You press “answer” and suddenly you’re on the phone with a reporter wanting answers. Besides an increased heart rate, what’s your next reaction? Here are four easy tips to keep in mind when you pick up the phone and you discover you’re talking to the press:

Don’t ramble

From the moment you answer the phone and speak to a media member, assume that everything is on the record. Before answering questions, know your core message and make it concise—less is more. Answer questions with a “yes” or “no,” support your answer with a claim, state or restate your core message, then conclude your answer.

Ask to reschedule before you answer

If a media member calls you unexpectedly with questions, it’s okay to schedule a time later that day to reconnect provided it’s not an urgent matter. Whether you’re asking for the interview to take place 15 minutes later or two hours later, this strategy will allow you extra time to prep for any questions and make sure your messaging is on point. If anything, you have time to clear your thoughts and find a quiet space to take the call. Make sure to get their name, contact information and purpose of the call, as well as any information on questions they would like to ask ahead of time. If you have enough time, it’s always good to do a little Google research on the media member, provided you’re not already familiar with them and their work. What stories have they written recently? Do they tend to favor certain topics more than others?

Context matters

When planning out your responses, make sure your message is positive and means the same thing when standing alone. You don’t want a comment to be taken out of context and plastered in a headline.


Remember, an interview is a great way to clear the air or simply inform the public about your brand or company. Be confident and amiable. If you are nervous or short with the media member, they may feel that you have something to hide, which is a whole other rabbit hole you want to avoid.

For more tips when the media calls, contact us at The Brandon Agency.

Plus, be sure to look for our next media relations blog focused on finding your message and staying on point!