C is for contact details
The A to Z of Media Relations
Supported by Unicepta
When a well-known journalist finally got hold of the press officer at a respected organisation after hours of trying, he asked (not unreasonably) why the team’s phone numbers were not on its website. Ah, said the press officer, everybody who needs our numbers already has them.
It’s logical, but it’s also illogical. The journalist in question had been assigned an unfamiliar beat to cover a colleague’s absence. His colleague hadn’t left his contacts list. No journalist would. Instead, the hack had to ring a main switchboard, and struggle with an operator who did not understand the concept of either media or deadlines.
I’d like to say it was a one-off, but sadly too many organisations now merely have an email address for journalists to contact if they need a comment. And the response that journalists usually receive? ‘Thank you for your request. We will endeavour to respond within 48 hours.’ Editors just love that, what with deadlines and all.
It brings back memories of the old days when Vodafone’s media team requested journalists made contact via email rather than the mobile phones they were paid to promote. Still, it’s not as bad as Anglian Water, which currently charges journalists four pence a minute, plus their own phone company’s charges, if they deign to call its 0871 number. (Although, to be fair, it does include the email address and short biography of both members of the team.)
Honestly, you’d think some media teams viewed journalists as an inconvenience.
Yet, our demands are simple. Humble, some might say.
We want contact details, which are accessed via logical places – such as the media relations page of the organisation’s website, or the bottom of a press release. Ideally, we would like individual numbers, but we’ll settle for a single press office number – that is answered in a timely fashion.
And please don’t make the boast that the press office phone is answered within five rings. It usually isn’t, but if it is then the person who answers is often somebody who asks lots of questions and promises the relevant person will call back. And then it’s a waiting game.
Perhaps it is no surprise that media relations team for Accenture UK and Ireland, winner of the CorpComms Awards for Best in-house Media Relations Team in 2021, has a perfect online newsroom. There’s an image of every spokesperson, details of the subjects they cover, an email address and a mobile phone number.
Obviously, that’s not possible when there’s 60 or even 600 in a communications team, but the clue is in the name. You’re in the business of communicating. Work out a solution because, sooner or later, journalists might just give up trying to make contact.