Make the most of a news interview

Many charities rightly an complain that they get too little news coverage, yet when they do get a chance to talk to a reporter, they often waste it. So be prepared.

Whether you request coverage, or reporters contact you unexpectedly or during a crisis, have a plan that spells out who speaks for the organization, and what to say.

Create talking points that focus on the needs you address, the people you serve, and your impact on their lives. And in a crisis, address all the issues you can.

Stick to what you want to say. If you get a question you do not know the answer to, or are not prepared to answer, say you will get back to the reporter, and make sure you find out the reporter’s deadline, cell phone number and email address.

If the reporter is recording the interview, remember that you can pause as often and for as long as you like until you figure out what you want to say. And if you stumble in the middle of a sentence or thought, pause, collect yourself, and start over again.

You also should invite the reporter to call you if he or she has more questions, or would like to check facts and quotes.

Once the story is published or broadcast, send a quick email message thanking the reporter for the opportunity to share your story.

If the story contains an error, be selective about whether to complain or ask for a correction. If it is a minor mistake, either let it pass or, in your thank-you note, simply mention it to the reporter for future reference. If it is a significant mistake, you might let the reporter know about it with a phone call.

Keep your eyes on the prize. If you get a chance to talk to a reporter, use it to tell your story, and to begin to cultivate a relationship, not burn bridges.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

One response

  1. Very good points, Todd. I would also add “practice, practice, practice.” Work with a media trainer and do mock interviews. Also, videotape yourself so you can notice any areas for improvement.

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