There are few phrases that can spread fear more quickly than “There’s a reporter on the phone who wants to talk with you.”
Part of the anxiety stems from the fact that few compliance professionals have much experience in talking with the press.
To help better understand what you should and shouldn’t do when talking to a journalist, we spoke with Ben DiPietro, editor and reporter for the Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance Journal, and with Grace Keith, Managing Director, Caliber Corporate Advisers.
In this very illuminating, and often reassuring conversation they lay out practical tips when talking to the press including the fact that reporters are people, too. Each one is different, working at different organizations with different rules and guidelines. So, don’t think of the press at one monolithic body. Other advice includes:
- Do a little Google search before talking to a reporter, and even check social media to better understand what they cover
- You can build relationships with a reporter and be a source, not just talk to them when there is bad news
- Don’t be afraid to tell the reporter that you need to call him or her back, but find out what the reporter’s deadline is
- It’s okay to tell a reporter that you don’t know an answer and will need find out; it’s far better to do that then to give the wrong information
- If the reporter isn’t familiar with compliance programs, take the time to explain how they work
- Don’t forget that compliance may mean different things to do different people; be sure to let the journalist know what you are focused on
- Have a plan for when something goes wrong
- Be clear what’s on the record, off the record and on background
- Speak slowly so that the reporter can type accurately.