Helen Patterson, president King Knight Communications.
Twitter @HKKnight

When a reporter calls, resist the temptation to just pick up the phone and let your thoughts flow. You might say something you regret and you’ll most likely miss an opportunity to convey an important message.

  1. Buy some time. If a journalist calls you out of the blue, take some time to prepare. Tell them you’d like to talk with them but are in the middle of something – ask them when is the deadline?
  2. Get a brief summary of the topic. Sometimes you’ll just get a line or two, like, “We’re looking at regulations of alternative therapies like acupuncture” or “It’s about WCRI’s new report.” Anything that will help you focus on what the reporter will be interviewing you about is helpful.
  3. Get prepped. Make a list of questions the reporter might ask and how you’d answer them. Crafting key messages keeps you from wandering off topic, going on tangents and helps you deliver good, crisp quotes.

Even if the deadline is today, try to buy yourself fifteen minutes to do some quick research or refresh your memory on the topic. Read the news release, proposed legislation or study – at least the executive summary – and write down a few thoughts.

For more in depth reading, check out this recent Forbes article, How to Prep for a Media Interview.