How to respond when the media requests a reaction to a story

What to do when the media calls

  • While it is poor etiquette not to respond immediately to media calls, buy time.  If a reporter contacts a division unexpectedly, they are most likely looking for comment on a story they are already working on.  It is possible there may be a contentious aspect to it.
    • Let the reporter know that you or someone else will call them back within their deadline.
    • This will give the spokesperson time to gather their thoughts and prepare.
    • The provincial communications team can help with messaging/preparations for an interview.
  • Everyone who answers the division's phone must be aware of the following policy:  nobody other than designated spokespeople are permitted to speak on the division's behalf.  Regardless of who answers the call -- an office assistant or the spokesperson -- the following questions should be asked (very politely, of course):
    • What media outlet are you calling from? (If they haven't already mentioned it.)
    • May I have your name? (Ask for spelling if it is not obvious).
    • Can you give me some background on the focus of your story?
    • What kind of information are you looking for from us?
    • What is your deadline?
    • May I have your contact number?
  • It is a good idea to reach out to the provincial Divisions communications office for guidance before returning media calls.
    • Depending on the topic, it may be more appropriate for a provincial spokesperson to respond.
    • If a reporter leaves a voicemail message, the provincial team can contact them and ask the above questions.
  • Develop key messages on the issue.
    • Write them down, and have them close by for when you speak with the reporter.  This will help keep you on track.  Don't be afraid to repeat the key messages.
    • Consider the benefits of notifying the provincial communications team for help in developing messages.  The provincial team may be able to provide context on the reporter or to the reporter's inquiry.