Working with the Media

Because working with the media is one of your primary opportunities for communicating with the public, your positive relationships with the media are crucial. Consider what to do before, during, and after an interview, and in a crisis. The media will demand answers to their questions and access to experts and visuals aids.

CERC Course Materials - Working with the Media (PDF)

  • Be first: Provide a statement that your agency is aware of the emergency and is involved in the response.
  • Be right: Start monitoring media for misinformation that must be corrected.
  • Be credible: Tell the media when and where to get updates from your agency.
  • Give facts. Don’t speculate. Ensure partners are saying the same thing.

In general, the media is interested in the following:

  • Human interest stories
  • Bad news more than good news
  • People's perspectives
  • Yes or no/safe or unsafe answers
  • Front-page news stories

The media will seek information on: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? To maximize your impact, prepare and practice delivering your key message. Message Development for Communication

Prepare to answer these questions:

  • Who’s in charge?
  • How are those who are ill/hurt getting help?
  • Is this being contained?
  • What can we expect?
  • What should we do?
  • Why did this happen?
  • Did you have forewarning?
  • Why wasn’t this kept from happening?
  • What else can go wrong?
  • When did you begin working on this?
  • What does this data/information mean?
  • What bad things aren’t you telling us?

Writing for the media

During the early phase of a crisis you will be doing a lot of writing for the media, specifically press releases to explain what is happening. As the crisis evolves, you may be writing about specific actions taken by agencies, individuals, or personal stories of those helped in the crisis. Use this CERC template for writing a press release.

Limit your emergency press release to one page. The release should answer the basics: who, what, why, when, where and how. Additional information can be included in an attached fact sheet or background information document. Remember that any information must be cleared by your leadership before releasing to media.

Messages for the public

  • Trigger your public information toll-free number operation now if you anticipate that the public will seek reassurance or information directly from your organization. (You may adjust hours of operation and number of call managers as needed.)
  • Use your initial media statement as your first message to the public.
  • Ensure that your statement expresses empathy and acknowledges public concern about the uncertainty.
  • Give the pre-cleared facts you have and refer the public to other information sites as appropriate.
  • Remind people that your agency has a process in place to mitigate the crisis.
  • Start public call-monitoring to catch trends or rumors now.