Let me ask you: if you call a good friend and leave a message but he or she does not call you back, would you be happy? If you call a client about news that you think is interesting and important to them and they do not call you back, would you be happy?
Probably not. It is basic courtesy and human decency to return calls. I am not asking you to return every single telemarketers call. They don’t even know you, they are just going through a phone book. But when it comes to friends, family, colleagues, clients, and prospects, we tend to return phone calls. These days, however, an actual phone call has become somewhat rare with email and texting.
Well, guess what? Reporters are human beings too. So if they call and leave a message about wanting to interview you on a particular topic, my recommendation is to always call them back even if it is a topic that you do not want to be interviewed on or you find it unpleasant. You can always tell the reporter to talk to you off the record for a moment and get them to agree that you do not want to talk about a particular matter. You can tell them that you do not feel comfortable being a part of that story but appreciate the call. You can tell them that they can call you anytime for another story.
If you handle it that way, you leave a good taste on the mouth of the reporter. They begin to respect you and they will be there for you when you call them for another story when you are looking for positive coverage for yourself. That does not mean every story will be positive from that one act of kindness and politeness of returning a call but it can become the basis for a relationship of mutual respect. Treating them dismissively leaves is sour taste.