You don’t have time to sleep

It was 5.46am. 5.46am. That’s right.

You don't have time to sleep | pressme

I got up at 6.45am, which is late for me, and noticed a voicemail and text message on my phone. Now I set my phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ at night so only family and friends can call me. I answer my phone at most other times, but I believe in a good night’s sleep.

One door closes . . .

The text came through at 5.46am asking if someone from the charity I was involved in could speak on a breakfast radio programme at 7.20am. For once, this was a problem. I made a phone call to see if someone else could speak, but got no reply.

I made contact with the radio station and we tried to work something out, but it didn’t happen.

We lost the opportunity.

. . . and another door opens

The researcher was very grateful for our efforts and asked if she could pass our details on to other programmes. I said ‘yes’.

Sure enough, later in the morning we got another contact and our chairman was able to do the interview.

Then we got another request for the afternoon, which our chairman was also able to cover.

Meanwhile on TV . . .

While all this was happening, I got a call from a regional TV reporter to ask if I would comment on what Christmas means to retailers in the town. I changed into smart attire, ran out of the house and did a quick poll of shops as I went to meet the reporter. I had contacted someone about to open a new shop next week to ask if they would like to be filmed. The reporter filmed the interview with me and then the inside of their shop and I returned to the office.

Now I could get back to the work I had planned to do today.

More radio . . .

After a couple of hours another radio station called asking for an interview from the charity at 5.15pm. I took this one and answered the call to speak live on radio over the telephone.

Take a break

It’s been quite a day with three radio interviews and one TV interview, but it was all good exposure.

I got the calls because I try to make myself available at reasonable times and will fit in with interviews at short notice. It works because the TV reporter commented that he had heard me on national radio two weeks ago. I have become known as someone who can speak confidently on TV and radio and provide relevant comments.

It’s not possible to make every interview and I’m not worrying about the one we missed. We have to sleep, to switch off, to rest.

And I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight.

Preparing for a telephone interview on live radio

National Campaign for CourtesyThis morning I got a call from BBC Radio Five Live asking if I would take part in a live discussion about courtesy on national radio. As I am a volunteer on the executive of the National Campaign for Courtesy, I said yes. The campaign achieves a high profile by taking opportunities such as this in the UK media.

As this hadn’t been a planned part of my schedule, I scooted round to be ready for the call at 9.00am. Often a radio station will ask to speak over a landline to get a clearer signal. I closed my office door, cleared my desk and got out my notebook. Then I looked up the main story they wanted to talk about: the question of whether MPs should have offered Jo Swinson a seat during Prime Minister’s Questions recently. I jotted down some details, including her name. I also opened the National Campaign for Courtesy web site in another browser tab and jotted down a couple of points.

When the member of the production team called to invited me on, they asked me a few questions and I jotted down my answers to these, along with bullet points of things I wanted to say. I also made a note of the web site address – yes, I know it off by heart, but nerves can strike anyone however experienced and I like to have things in front of me so that I can just read them out easily without hesitating as I try to remember.

The phone rang and the production staff put me through. Nicky Campbell was the presenter and very ably introduced the speakers and a number of callers from the public. Whenever a caller was introduced, I jotted down their name and the points they made. I’m terrible at remembering names so this enabled me to refer to callers by name and refer to their phrases directly in my responses.

It was a very enjoyable interview and Nicky Campbell introduced the campaign and me three or four times. What good exposure for the charity on a radio station which attracts up to 7 million listeners. Thank you to Nicky and to BBC Radio 5 Live.

I hope this helps you if you are asked to speak on radio. I know that many people get nervous, which is natural, but if you prepare you can enjoy it too and get exposure for you, your organisation or business.

• Robert Zarywacz is a UK writer, PR and journalist | partner in Zarywacz | courtesy consultant at and the National Campaign for Courtesy

How sure must we be of facts?

If a customer asks for a written quotation, most businesses will honour it, even if they attach a time limit to it.

If a customer places an order on the basis of that quotation, they’ll very likely get angry if they get charged more or lots of extras are added without warning. Depending on the wording, they could even take the business to court if they had been misled.

Is there any difference with PR? Not really. Even if what we say is vague, people are likely to remember it and hold us to it. If we maintain we made a spur-of-the-moment remark, it does our reputation no good to withdraw it. Will people trust us again? Probably not.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that information we give out publicly – in a press release, article or spoken interview – is accurate.

Don’t be tempted if you’re not sure

Sometimes journalists will press for figures, especially if they seem impressive. It can be very tempting to blurt them out, like a bee unable to resist sweet honey, but the negative publicity if we get it wrong could be damaging. We could say our profits had increased by 15% and then find they had actually fallen by 5%. Not a good idea.

And remember not to mention sensitive information, especially if it has to be approved by a third party. If a partner organisation or customer or supplier finds out that we have given out information about them that they considered confidential, it could be disaster for our business.

We need to be sure of our facts before making them public.

Keep data at hand

If you find it hard to remember details, create a one-page summary of key information about your business or specific projects on your laptop, tablet device or phone or print it out to carry with you so you always have it to hand.

Build a checklist for details and data into your PR plan so that it becomes part of your business process and you are always prepared for journalists’ questions.

And remember that in the long run it is usually better to say we don’t know the answer rather than fudging it and looking stupid later.


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