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How to react quickly and effectively to the media

Reactionary media work can be stressful, as it can often involve potentially negative stories about the college. However, it’s important to keep calm and not rush to put a comment out without proper consideration.

  1. The first thing to do is to clarify details with the journalist. What’s the deadline? Do they want a written comment, or do they want to speak to someone over the phone or in person? Where, and when, will the comment be published?
  2. Next, you need to gather as much information about the incident or event as you can, speaking to the key people involved. If you have any unanswered questions about what has happened (or is about to happen), so will the media.
  3. Identify any reputational threats, such as the possible impact of a poor Ofsted report on parents and potential students and think about how to address them.
  4. Make sure your internal communications with staff, students and stakeholders (e.g. governors, local MPs, local authority) are the same as your external media messages and release it to staff and students first.

If you're asked for written comment you need to:

  • decide who are the best people to feed into your comment and bring them together to determine your key media lines. This group should include a member of the senior leadership team who can sign the comment off.
  • draft your comment and circulate it with that group to make sure everyone is happy.
  • send it back to the journalist and ask them if there is anything else they need from you.
  • keep an eye out for when the comment will be published, and double check it against what you sent over to make sure it’s accurate.

If you're asked for a comment via a phone call, or in-person, you need to:

  • decide who is the best person to put forward for the interview. They need to be an expert on what they’re going to be talking about.
  • work with the spokesperson and others senior leaders as appropriate to determine the key lines you want to get across.
  • pull together a briefing for the spokesperson with background information and the key media lines.
  • ask the journalists if you can sit in on the interview. If this is allowed, you don’t necessarily need to contribute, but just be in the background to offer support to the spokesperson and follow up on any questions that the spokesperson couldn’t answer then and there.
  • it’s very unlikely that journalists will share a piece in full before publication, however spokespeople should always ask the journalist if they can send over the direct quotes they’d like to use from the interview ahead of publication.
  • keep an eye out for when the comment will be published, and double check it against what you sent over to make sure it’s accurate.

In preparation for any reactionary work, it’s important the media know who to call, and don’t get lost in the switchboard. The college press office contact details should be prominently displayed on the website, and all the call takers (reception, switchboard, the principal’s PA) should know to put the media through to you.

AoC offers a crisis comms service. If you are unsure of how to react to a media request, or need any support, please do get in touch with: Julia Belgutay ( and Kate Parker (