What really stood out to me in this week’s chapters was the recommendations Tom Peters makes about interacting with the media. He shares his lessons from years of ups, downs, quotes and misquotes by the media. He says, “The press has made me. And made me mad as hell.”
- Tell the whole truth. Most people don’t lie, but too few tell the whole truth. They are reporters, so they will probably learn the rest of the story eventually. Peters suggests acknowledging the good, bad and ugly right up front.
- It is okay (and preferred) to change your position/story if new information comes to light. When you dig your heels in based on old information it makes it look like you are being untruthful by sticking to your guns.
- Get over quotes taken out of context. It is going to happen and there isn’t much you can do about it.
- Return phone calls (and emails) promptly.They are always on a deadline. It is the nature of their business.
- Treating the media like an ally will aid your success in a crowded, competitive market.
- Take a long-term view. You want reporters to come back to you again and again, so maintaining a strong relationship will help position you for long-term success.
- There are jerks in the media, just like there are jerks in every kind of business out there. Don’t assume that one jerk speaks for all media or let one bad experience sour you from actively engaging with reporters.
- “Don’t take your press releases seriously. The press doesn’t.”
- Media are looking for a sound bite. Give it to them.
- Don’t forget about radio. It is still possible to discuss a story for 10 or 15 minutes on radio and a lot of people are still listening. [I’ll throw in podcasts too…since this book is 20+ years old.]
In complement to this, here are a few more tips I found in my research:
Stratcommunications.com (2016) reinforces the importance of developing relationships before you “need” the media. They also wisely suggest being a broken record to ensure your key messages are heard loud and clear. They point out that live interviews are great for maintaining control of messaging. They also suggest making the reporter’s job as easy as possible by providing background information and explanations if your message is complex.
Brad Phillips for Mr. Media Training recommends never going “off the record.” There is a lot of ambiguity as to what “off the record” means, so it will be hard to ensure that you and the reporter are agreeing to the same terms. He also says that you should never say “no comment” because the public hears that as “I’m guilty.” Instead, Phillips suggests making a comment that doesn’t really comment on that issue. Phillips points out that when you are being interviewed you can limit the duration of the interview if you are worried about a fishing expedition. His orientation is definitely more adversarial in orientation that Tom Peters.
My experiences working with the media have all been very positive. I have certainly exercised understanding with regard to their deadlines and tried to respond quickly when asked for an interview or comment. In all, I think my organizations have all benefited from media relations that came from an orientation of appreciation for the exposure.
Phillips, B. (2011, May 11). Eight ground rules when working with reporters. Retrieved online at http://www.mrmediatraining.com/2011/05/12/8-ground-rules-when-working-with-reporters/
Stratcommunications.com (2016). 7 tips for working with the media. Retrieved online at http://blog.stratcommunications.com/7-tips-for-working-with-the-media/.