The Media’s Calling? Stop, Drop and Roll

When training attorneys or other professionals to work with the media, I always stress one takeaway: Do not ever do an interview on the fly.

Whenever possible, take the "Stop, Drop and Roll" approach:

Let's say your phone rings, and it's a reporter. And for some reason you didn't look at your caller ID, and you pick up.

"Hi, Jane Doe, this is Lois Lane at the Daily Planet. I was hoping to ask you some questions about [major deal, major transaction, business trend, your recent indictment]."

STOP. Do not engage at this point. Don't go in cold. Even if it's a benign call, even if it's to discuss good news. Yes, the interview opportunity is valuable, and you want to capitalize. Yes, the reporter may be on deadline. But it will be a far better result for you - and the reporter - if you take the time to prepare.

How to respond: "Lois, thank you so much for calling. I am in the middle of something right now. Can we talk in an hour or so? Also - I'd like to make sure I give you the best possible information. Is there anything specific you'd like me to be prepared to address? What's your deadline?"

(If you used your caller ID and Lois went to your voice mail, this is a great time to engage your marketing department or PR firm. They can call Lois back on your behalf, scout out the particulars, arrange an interview time, give you intel on her approach and background, and much more.)

DROP. Drop what you are doing. Concentrate on making the most of this interview. Outline your key points. A good start: think of how to best state what happened, what it means, what's next.


Now, create an interview-friendly environment. Do the interview on a land line if at all possible - the sound quality on speakerphone is tough for reporters who are transcribing your quotes, and cell phones can cut in and out. (You'd hate for a bad signal to drop the "not" out of a key sentence.) Turn off your email. Hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door.

ROLL. Call Lois back. Refer to your talking points, and roll them into the discussion. Remember that it's your responsibility to convey your perspective -- it's not the reporter's job to ask you the "magic question," so don't wait for it. Have a conversation, not an interrogation. Guide the interview with language like "What's really important to understand about this case is..." or "What your readers really need to know is..."

You will not get a do-over, and you will not get to see the story before it runs (that's another post). Take a few minutes to make it worthwhile for both you and the reporter.

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