What to do if contacted by media
If you are contacted by a member of the media in your professional capacity as a King County employee, you should know what steps to take and who to reach out to in your department. Your first point of contact should always be your department’s Public Information Officer, who can work with the reporter to answer their questions and connect them with the best person to represent the county on an issue.
We have put together a brief reference guide to help you if you are contacted by a member of the media. Remember that your department’s Public Information Officers are there to help you and help the media get answers to their questions. We strive for responsiveness, transparency, and coordination. Working together, we can help the news media and the public understand our work and build support in protecting public health, safeguarding the environment, advancing racial equity, and enriching our quality of life in King County.
1. Please do not communicate with reporters before checking with your department’s Public Information Officer
- King County staff should not communicate with the press about county business without prior authorization.
- If you are contacted by reporters, let them know you may not be the best person to represent the county on this issue and they should check with your department’s Public Information Officer.
- Media contact can range from a neighborhood blog to CNN. Your department’s Public Information Officer is here to help in these situations.
- You can take the reporter’s name, phone number, deadline, and example questions, then call your department’s Public Information Officer. We will work with you and others to respond promptly.
- Your department’s Public Information Officer, your supervisor or director may then ask you to speak with the reporter if more detailed or technical information is needed about operations.
2. Alert your department’s Public Information Officer to all media contact
- Your department’s Public Information Officer needs to know immediately when staff are contacted by the media, and particularly on topics that are potentially controversial, related to the county budget or related to an Executive initiative. It’s also important to know right away if the reporter wants to go out to a job site or send a photographer.
- Do not ignore press inquiries; unresponsiveness hurts press relationships and can result in negative treatment.
- Your department’s Public Information Officers are here to help. We can find out what the reporter needs, help formulate key messages, brief the reporter, and help find the appropriate manager or staff for an interview.
3. If authorized for interview
- Speak only to issues within your work program. Please do not give sweeping opinions or your interpretation of policy decisions.
- Please don’t speak on behalf of other organizations, partners, departments, elected officials, or branches of government.
- Stay on King County’s message and avoid leading questions by returning to the key points. Example: “I’m not aware of that, but I can tell you that this project is designed to help the environment and protect public safety.”
- Ask the reporter when the story will run. This allows us to monitor coverage and alert senior managers.
4. Follow up after the authorized interview
- Provide a summary of the conversation via email to your department’s Public Information Officer and appropriate supervisor/management staff ASAP.
- Advise them when the story is likely to run (if known).
Please note that work conducted on personal devices and accounts may be subject to public records requests. If a reporter contacts you about work on your personal device or account, please report this contact to your department’s Public Information Officer and follow these guidelines.
This guidance applies if you are contacted in your professional capacity as a King County employee. In your personal capacity outside of work, you may choose to communicate with members of the media.