Chances are, you've had reporters contact you about something that happened in your district for which they would like further information. But were you prepared? Did they just show up on your doorstep asking for an on-camera interview, or did they call and your administrative assistant wasn't sure what to say or if she should even forward the call to you?
If you haven't had this happen yet, consider yourself lucky. Chances are, though, at some point in your educational administrative career, one (or more) will come knocking. When that happens, it's best to have a plan ready to go that will lessen any anxiety and stress you and your staff might experience as a result. Because let's face it--communicating with reporters can sometimes be a scary, intimidating thing!
So to help prepare, here are a few things you should think about doing:
- Keep a shareable, online spreadsheet accessible to all staff who are responsible for answering phones (think Google Sheets). It should include the reporter's name, media outlet with which he/she is affiliated, time of call, topic they wish to discuss and columns for recording when the call was returned and what the result was.
- If you don't wish to be interviewed on camera, that is your prerogative! Simply state that you will be issuing a statement. Once it is written, provide a digital copy to those who answer the main phones, and any time a reporter calls, they can simply email the statement to him/her. It is also advisable to have a templated statement at the ready that you can adjust to fit the situation so that you don't have to start from scratch, especially during a stressful time when your brain is probably all over the place.
- You also should create a district media access policy to share with all administrators that details in what areas within your buildings reporters would be authorized to access, who is/are your district's designated spokesperson(s), processes for reporters to check in/check out of buildings, whether or not students are approved to be filmed/photographed, etc.
- If you have never practiced interviewing on camera, there is no time like the present! Being videoed on camera while being asked questions about a perhaps unpleasant situation that has occurred in your district can compound your anxiety, and appearing shifty, nervous, or defensive can only make things worse. There are techniques you can use to remain--or at least appear to be--calm.
The good news about all of this? I can help you with everything listed above! Please let me know if I can assist. And remember: as SOON as you know a situation has occurred or will potentially be occurring for which you need to prepare, please contact me immediately, and I will work with you to mitigate any public issues that could arise.