On May 20, 2013, Sarah Corley watched television helplessly as a tornado more than a mile wide barreled down on Moore, Oklahoma, the hometown of her boss, Republican Rep. Tom Cole. Corley, who's Cole's communications director, watched the ball of debris grow bigger and bigger as it approached and then laid waste to the Oklahoma City suburb, killing 24 people. It was a tragedy. And any time a tragedy happens, media outlets want to hear from officials who have a personal connection.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a taping of NBC's Meet the Press. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)"As soon as it went through Moore, the phone just started ringing off the hook," Corley recalls. "I don't think I left the office until midnight that night. Requests kept coming. We were scheduling as much TV as we could. It was a long night."
For a communications director, this was a trial by fire. Everybody, it seemed, wanted Cole on air: ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, local stations, radio shows, you name it. But Corley didn't ignore a single contact—and to this day, she still doesn't. It's an approach she recommends to any congressional staffer who's charged with press relations. "Since then, my motto has always been to acknowledge every request," she says. "If it doesn't work out, I always encourage the booker or the producer to stay in touch with me and keep the congressman in mind for the future. There is never any unimportant request or person."