You’ve prepped your ice-breakers, the Press Releases are printed out and you’ve got your contacts details all programmed in your phone. Now to prepare for the unexpected.
If a journalist happens to come by the stand unexpectedly or asks a question that is sensitive or ‘off message’, there’s no need to panic. Four key things to remember when handling the unexpected are:
Give yourself time to prepare
It’s ok to say to the journalist “now is not a good time and could you come back in 5/10 minutes or later in the day”. Ask the journalist what he/she is looking to discuss – that way you will have some time to think through what you or the subject matter expert need to say.
Have something worthwhile to say
If there are controversial or sensitive issues in your area of expertise, work out where you stand and don’t be afraid to air those views – but make sure you can back them up. Journalists are looking for experts who are prepared to give a strong opinion. If your company prefers not to comment on such issues that’s fine, but don’t be surprised if the reporters don’t bother to call you again.
Make it interesting and relevant
Avoid talking theoretically – use tangible examples to bring your points to reality. You will come across much more authoritative. And, don’t get obsessed with your own internal messages – by all means weave them in to the conversation, but be selective and thoughtful to keep them
Be Effective & Follow up
Follow up with the journalists you met and determine if they need anything further – if you promised to send them material, then do so. Don’t forget those images. If you have any new story ideas or feature abstracts, now is the time to send them to the Editors.