Editor’s Note: The following is a short excerpt from Jonathan Bernstein’s “Keeping the Wolves at Bay” Media Training guide.
Remembering these sometimes-frustrating realities will help keep you out of trouble with inquiring minds that want to know. These don’t describe the interaction with all reporters, but you’re still safer if you assume they’re true every time.
- A reporter has the right to challenge anything you say or write, but will bristle when you try to do the same to them.
- A reporter can put words in a naive source’s mouth via leading questions (“Would you say that?” “Do you agree that?” “Do you feel that?”) and then swear by the authenticity of those quotes.
- The media will report every charge filed in a criminal or civil case, with coverage focusing far more on the allegations than on responses by a defendant. This also makes a civil complaint a very effective crisis communications tool – for plaintiffs.
- The media usually carries a bigger stick than you through its ability to selectively report facts and characterize responses, and via the public perception that “if I saw it in/on the news, it must be true.”
- “Off the record” often isn’t and “no comment” is usually interpreted as “I’ve done something wrong and don’t want to talk about it.”
Editor’s Note: Now take all of these conundrums and bring them to today’s online world where a) news travels at the speed of light, b) words and expressions can be misinterpreted when reduced to 140 characters, and c) reporters can easily target un-expecting members of your team via any social media channel to pose questions and get more information.
2 important take-aways
- Remember these realities and risks when faced with inquiries by the media, bloggers and the online world in and out of a crisis
- Train your staff to be online media ready
Don’t wait until you’re faced with a challenging situation to evaluate and prepare for these types of risks (as well as many others). Do so now and let yourself, and your team, sleep easy at night.