Media Relations (Part 7) – Talking To Reporters

Ten Terrific Tips

7. Tell the truth

It should go without saying that lying to journalists is unethical and should be avoided at all costs. Lying to the media will usually backfire on you because the reporter will obtain the correct information from other sources anyway. Moreover, lying or misrepresenting the facts means risking the loss of your credibility, that of your organization and its brand. And once trust is lost with the media, it’s extremely difficult — if not impossible — to regain. Therefore, when it comes to lying, just don’t do it!

Even telling reporters small “white lies” or not being completely candid can badly damage public trust, hurt consumer confidence and taint the brand image.

8. Don’t Comment on Everything

Having sufficient time to prepare for a media interview is an ideal situation but not always possible. Reporters can contact you at the worst possible times, including after regular business hours and on weekends.

It’s the job of journalists to obtain a comment or information from you on their deadline — not necessarily at your convenience.

Thus, no matter how persistent or pesky the reporter, no matter how many times they contact you, do not initially offer information on everything they ask about (particularly with no advance notice). Rather, coordinate with your press shop, legal and policy experts first. Always remain calm, cool and collected with the media. Don’t let a reporter pressure you into giving up too much information before you’re actually ready to provide it. Check out the following article regarding formal media interview requests, in which you have sufficient advance time to prepare…

9. Confidentiality Counts

If applicable, explain legal and statutory confidentiality provisions to journalists, including relevant rules and regulations regarding sensitive information for which you are prohibited from divulging. Once explained, a good reporter will not ask you to violate those rules. Moreover, rather than printing “no comment,” the reporter will usually point out that you are precluded from commenting for whatever the reason, as long as it’s legitimate. You also want to avoid commenting with the term “no comment.” Check out the following article for more information on “no comment”…

10. Educate Journalists

Last, but not least, take time to explain internal processes and procedures to new reporters and those whom you don’t know. Recall that most journalists cover multiple news beats and might be unaware of how your organization operates (and why).

Random reporters aren’t as informed or well versed in your organizational policies compared to you. Don’t mistakenly assume the opposite.

That’s why time spent in providing solid explanations and education to journalists usually pays off in more accurate and credible coverage — while also enhancing media relationships. Check out the following article on how to enhance media relations…

Try playing the role of professor and give the reporter an abbreviated lecture about your organization’s mission, goals, key issues and/or laws enforced.

You will both be better off in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Responding to unexpected media queries can be a major inconvenience in your busy workday. No one likes being caught off guard by journalists. Perhaps you were about to take a quick lunch break or get outside for some fresh air. Maybe you had to leave work early that day to pick up your kids at school for a scheduled dental appointment. But then you receive a surprise media query directly or from your company’s press shop. Now, you must put everything else on hold to respond. Oh crap!

You can’t control when the press shop contacts you for immediate assistance on a media inquiry, or when a reporter surprisingly seeks you out directly.

You may have no other choice than dropping whatever other work is on your plate and taking time to talk to the reporter — regardless of how it impacts your work day and work-life routine. However, the one smart move you can make is knowing how to engage the “media beast” in advance, so you’re ready to fend off any surprise attacks.

Otherwise, you risk being eaten alive.

David B. Grinberg
David B. Grinberghttps://www.linkedin.com/in/davidgrinberg-pr/
DAVID is a strategic communications consultant, ghostwriter and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. In 2018, he was named by Medium.com as a "Top Writer in Journalism, Government, and Social Media." In 2017, he was selected as a global brand ambassador by beBee.com and an advisory board member for AmericanDiversityReport.com. David is also a featured contributor for PRDaily.com, ThriveGlobal.com, SocialMediaToday.com, and GovLoop.com. His work in government and politics includes the White House for President Bill Clinton, OMB, EEOC, Congress, and global consulting firm GQRR.com. A native New Yorker, David has a journalism degree from the University of Maryland and was a reporter for BNA.com and U. Magazine (Colleges.com) prior to his public service.
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