When responding to media inquiries, assume you are on the record from the beginning. Always be polite, don't commit or refuse and listen carefully. Identify and respond only to their focus areas and make sure you understand what they're looking for.
It is important to document each step of the query. This will help you facilitate your interaction with the media. It will also help you pick up on trends in local media coverage and the types of stories they are routinely interested in covering. Don't be afraid to ask them who else they're talking to in a casual and non-confronting manner.
Use this step-by-step guide for mundane questions and stories and, most importantly, during times of crisis. Keep this response and documentation in a place where it can be easily accessed by the unit.
Check with your unit to ensure there are no further local policies or guidelines for this task.
- date (including the year) and time of the initial phone call or email you received from the media representative
- full name and rank of the person taking the media query
- date and time deadline (suspense date) by which the reporter needs the answer. If you know the question is for the 5 p.m. news in less than four hours, note the urgency of the request
- reporter's name, publication or broadcast station with parent affiliation, telephone number and email. Ask and include their preferred method of communication
- subject of the request
- background information from the reporter
- every question asked by the reporter. This is a good place to note where the reporter heard the story or why they are asking the question
- tracking number
Be realistic about meeting their deadline. Offer another story if appropriate or if you feel there's going to be a lot of coordination.
Research all relevant facts and cite their source.
- Use the appropriate staff to find and answer questions
- Ensure your SMEs stay in their lane
- Ensure the response receives a legal review when appropriate
- Security, Accuracy, Policy and Propriety (SAPP)
- Not every release will have an impact on OPSEC, so PA teams should not feel pressured to forward all releases to an OSPEC office
Sometimes researching the answers involves contacting several POCs within an office or several different units on your installation.
- Log the names, office symbols, and phone numbers of each
- Log dates and times for a quick turn query
An effective response should:
- Be clear
- Be concise
- Be honest
- Be simple
- Avoid absolutes, when appropriate
Annotate the date and time you responded to the query.
- Include the date of publication or broadcast, if the reporter knows. Annotate if they do not know the date
- Include any response reporters give and let them know they can reach out to you with any follow-up questions
Access a template to help you respond to a media query even faster. Once the query has been closed, retain the completed form in an appropriate location per your office's Records Management plan.