Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What to Do When You Find Yourself in the Middle of a Media Frenzy

Watching this whole "Octuplet Mom" fiasco on the news is like watching a train wreck. This is a clear example of someone who has never had to deal with the media and is suddenly thrust into the spotlight. It was the same with some of Sarah Palins interviews--didn't her handlers hire a media relations specialist to teach her how to use the media to her advantage instead of letting her go off into the wilds of public media scrutiny by herself? Anyway, since this is a preparedness blog, here are some tips to prepare you for the very slight chance that you may find yourself in the middle of a media storm:

  • Be prepared. You need to know your subject backwards and forwards. Have written information to use if you suddenly blank out.
  • Stay with your message. You want to get your message across, not be drug around by the nose by the reporter.
  • Always tell the truth. Lies will be quickly unraveled so save yourself the grief and backlash.
  • Don't speculate. Some reporters will ask you to give them answers to "what if" scenarios or ask you to guess about the answers to some questions. Don't do it. The information you give can take on a life of its own even if it turns out not to be true.
  • If you don't know an answer, say you don't know. You may not know everything so there is no shame in saying you don't know something. This is better than guessing (see above).
  • Keep your answers short and concise. There is less room to make mistakes if you give clear, concise answers rather than rambling, disjointed soliloquy.
  • Never go "off the record"; this only happens on TV sitcoms. Whatever you say to a reporter, on camera, or on mic will be broadcast far and wide so be careful of what you say.
  • Be poised and professional. Dress appropriately and keep your cool. Arguing, yelling, or going after the cameraman doesn't help your case at all.
  • Don't blame others or slam others, just give the facts as fairly as possible. Disparaging remarks made about others rarely makes them look worse but it does make you look pretty bad. Don't do it. Like your momma said, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it.
  • State your own case. If a reporter phrases an answer and asks if you agree, the quote can be attributed to you.
  • Don't fall for manipulative tactics from reporters or others. This makes for the best TV but you don't want to be remembered for the gaff shown round the world.
  • Hire a professional media advisor; depending on the situation, they may be worth their weight in gold (**cough** Sarah Palin).
  • Hold a press conference if necessary. It won't move the reporters off of your lawn but it will allow you to control the situation a bit more rather than giving the random off-balance quote to a whole string of reporters.
  • Build good relationships with the media. If you will be working with the media often, it makes sense to build good relationships with them as this can come in quite handy in the future.
That's about all. The media can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how it is used. If you do find yourself in a spotlight situation, remember these tips in order to keep your message clear while also keeping you out of trouble.

1 comment:

  1. Very good tips.

    One more thing I would mention is that after you answer a question, don't feel you have to say more if the reporter doesn't immediately ask another questions. Reporters will sometimes allow for extended silence in hopes that you will continue on and go off message, or give them something more interesting.