While entire books have been written about how to deal with electronic and print journalists, that is, how to best present yourself and your organization to the news media, it’s possible to summarize this collective wisdom fairly concisely with just a few fairly simple tips, most of which come under the broad heading of KISS… Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Tip Number 1) Prepare
Have a few relevant points or facts readily available before you ever speak to a media representative, and take the time, or ask for the time, to check your facts before “going on the record.” If at all possible, summarize your thoughts in a few simple key points.
Tip Number 2) Going on the Record
Speaking of going on the record, never say anything “off the record,” a phrase and a circumstance that can mean different things to different people. Always speak on the record, or assume that what you are saying to the news media is on the record. Another way of putting this as follows… don’t tell the media anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.
Tip Number 3) Assume Everything You Say Will be on the Front Page
of the New York Times
Or, even more widely circulated. The readership of the Internet, which literally contains a billion web pages, is far greater than the Times, and once a statement is posted on the Internet, it never goes away. Another way of looking at this is: it’s now almost impossible to keep anything a secret for long.
Tip Number 4) Be Aware of Deadlines
With the current news cycle being practically instantaneous, the issue of deadlines has become even more vital to the news media. Ask about the journalist’s deadline for the story.
Tip Number 5) Respond in Kind
Given the deadline pressure of web-based journalism, the news media will often try to expedite a story as quickly as possible. One of the most common ways of doing this is through social media. Recognize that most journalists have Twitter accounts and, if you have a Twitter account, you are likely to be contacted through that platform. Another part of this tip is to recognize that, especially in a crisis situation, you need to respond to the media through the platform that first broke the story.
Next week… five more tips for dealing with the media, including dealing with controversy, patience, and more KISS principles.