Whether you are in the business of public relations, or need to interact with the media occasionally, perhaps during a product launch or a crisis situation, there are certain rules and protocol that will help you present a positive and professional image and create a healthy working relationship with the media.
Stick to one person
The number one rule of media interaction is to limit the number of people who interact directly with the media. All communication should be routed through a single channel only. You can hold a joint press conference, if needed, but having more than one spokesperson for the company can give rise to different, contradictory versions and needless confusion.
Get your figures and facts bang on
Providing insufficient, vague or wrong information to the media is nothing short of virtual hara-kiri. Try to ensure that the information or statement you provide to the media is accurate, complete and specific. Read up on all the data you might need prior to the meeting, and if you are not sure about something, say so, and offer to get back with the right information.
Keep your statements crisp
Everyone loves a succinct speaker, and the media most of all! Keep your answers and statements concise and avoid repetition in your statements unless you wish to underscore what you have said. If your statement is more specific, lesser are the chances of it being misconstrued when it is paraphrased or altered.
Treat the media as you would treat your customer. They need to be treated with respect and responsibility. Nothing irks reporters more than being ignored and bad publicity is worse than no publicity at all. If a person has called in your absence, or you wish to leave a message, include your telephone number and convenient time when the reporter can call back again.
Never talk off the record
It is best to be honest and straightforward with the media. Do not offer any exclusive, insider information or off- the-record opinions that could come back to haunt you. If you are not sure about the answer, ask for the name of the reporter, or paper, the contact details, and offer to get back with the precise information required.
Consider your answers and responses
No matter how provoking the questions may be, it is your responsibility to keep your calm and answer to the best of your abilities. Avoid commenting on rumours or hearsay. Never answer for other people.
Never say anything you are not sure about. Try to keep your responses informative, interesting, and humorous if possible. This will ensure that it makes it to the print or broadcast.
Correct mistakes immediately
If you make a mistake or an error of judgment, correct it immediately. There is nothing wrong in owning up. State that your answer was inadequate or wrong, and you would like to clear the misconception.
Never try to cosy up or harass reporters
Trying to bribe or harass reporters can land you in deep trouble. If you want to express your appreciation to the media, send them a thank you card or a dinner invite rather than offering gifts, which can be misconstrued. Similarly, when the media gets facts wrong or twists statements made by you out of context, speak to them politely and ask them to clear the miscommunication. Alternatively, you can make a public statement presenting your point of view. Harassing or threatening media personnel not only gets you bad publicity, but could even land you in court!
The media can have a great impact on public perception of your company, and it is essential that the image and message you convey to the press is positive and polished. Dealing with the media can be challenging sometimes. So, knowing where to draw the line will help you stay calm, confident and on your best and most media savvy behaviour.