Step 1. An inquiry comes in...
What procedures are in place for your comms shop to respond to media and public inquiries/issues? How are these inquiries monitored, recorded, and responded to? For example, is there a central telephone number? Who answers it during the day, and what messages/practices are in place off-hours? How well is your social media monitored for responses? Email? Website inquiries?
My preference is a telephone number answered by comms office staff during the day and a messaging service during evenings and weekends. There should also be a general email address for media and the public on your website that either goes to a shared inbox or is automatically forwarded to relevant staff. Larger shops will have a dedicated staffer to oversee social media and alert the shop to any issues.
Step 2. What do you do with the inquiry?
I'm a firm believer that the entire shop (or at least the external focused members) always be familiar with the inquiries coming in. So, a telephone or email inquiry gets emailed to all relevant members. This trigger will let everyone know the type of inquiries coming in (the volume of which may increase if there is a hot issue or crisis) and allow an assigned press officer to field it or allow the team leader to step in as needed.
An email to the team also helps set a record and lets everyone know what inquiries are outstanding. There should also be an internal database to record the inquiry.
Step 3. How are you generating a response to the inquiry?
Based on the inquiry, the founder or boss may need to be alerted. In addition, you may need to seek out your subject matter experts to help generate the response.
Step 4. Responding
Ok, you've created your response; you've informed all internal people who need to know, now you need to figure out how to respond. Will it be a simple statement from you? Your principal? Or, if it is broadcast, does the situation merit an on-camera interview? This will depend on the case.
Step 5. Record
As mentioned above, tracking the response and result is always important. A simple database or shared folder can save responses for the future. Some issues crop up annually, and a record will not only allow you to track what was stated in the past but may help in creating future responses.
Tracking inquiries & responses is key and will pay dividends in the future!