Checklist: Rules for Handling the Press

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Many organizations tend to be active in their local communities, whether they are hosting a fundraiser event for the local hospital, sponsoring a child’s sports team or by being active in a political campaign. Organizations active in the community and with their local government may be called upon from time to time to comment on organizational or local issues. As a senior member of your organizations team, you become the voice of your brand. In the event that you are asked to comment to the media on a local issue referring to your organization or the community, prepare for your media interview by following these simple tips:

Checklist: Rules for handling the press

- Establish the terms of an interview at the beginning. There is no such thing as "off the record";

- Agree on one spokesperson who will speak for the organization;

- Be prepared: Know your subject thoroughly before meeting with the journalist. Prior to the interview, create a set of no more than three key messages you want to get across. Practice delivering them aloud;

- Establish your organization’s key messages and keep coming back to them in your interview;

- Never lie to reporters even about mundane details such as why you cannot take their call;

- Understand media deadlines and make every attempt to help meet them;

- Take control of the interview. While the journalist asking the questions would appear to control the interview, you can steer the course of the session by returning to the key messages;

- Keep your own record of the interview. Make an audio or video recording of your comments. This will assist you in practicing your delivery and will also serve as insurance against being wrongly quoted; and

- Remember, the media will have the last word.

Remember, handling the press properly is key to advancing your company’s profile and forming new relationships. Using public relations strategies only enhances your company’s reputation and visibility in the community.

For more information please feel free to contact me at 613-233-8906 or by e-mail at with questions or comments.

Huw Williams is President of Impact Public Affairs, an Ottawa-based public relations and government relations firm specializing in finding innovative strategic communications and advocacy solutions for large industry associations. Over the years, Impact has been recognized nationally and internationally for the effective and creative public affairs campaigns that it has created for its client.

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