What Woodward, Fournier and more than a few other Washington journalists ought to regret is the degree to which they have allowed themselves to become personally attached to the presidency of Barack Obama.
Engaged a relentless battle against time and fatigue, a select group of message scientists assembled by the White House’s Center for Narrative Control say they will take “all steps necessary” to contain a recent outbreak of scrutonium, a deadly poll-eating supervirus that attacks the immuno-hope system, leaving victims vulnerable to material facts.
First, you must perform a check on any possible mis-readings or errors by the reporter. Second, monitoring the interview will provide you with a better understanding of the points your principal wants to stress. Finally, you will be able to perform a more effective follow-up with the reporter, something that can be especially important if the principal makes a mistake during the interview.
While monitoring the interview pay close attention to ensure the principal does not make any factual errors. If he or she gets a number or date wrong, you need to fix it. In the event the error occurs during a broadcast interview, it will be up to you to encourage the reporter not to make use of that particular sound bite.
At times you may need to either play up or play down certain points by your principal. This can be a challenge as reporters often view this strategy as a blatant form of spin. In some instances, you may have additional facts not mentioned by the principal that serve to strengthen the main point and will be relevant to the reporter. You can do this through the follow-up. By sending additional points through email you can reinforce points you would like to see appear within the story.
You also need to consider whether you want to record the interview. There may be little value in recording an interview unless it is a one-time interview and you anticipate a biased story. Blatantly recording an interview sends a message to the reporter that you do not trust them. If it is your goal to establish a long-term relationship with a reporter conducting an interview, you must work toward building a degree of trust. That may mean not recording the interview.
All public relations professionals from time to time have disagreements with the media. You might be asked to research something at a time that is inconvenient or you might be forced to ask your principle a question that ultimately proves to be embarrassing. Something you write might even land you in trouble. The relationship that exists between the media and the public relations professional is typically not equal. Whenever a disagreement does occur, it is not on an even playing field.
Public relations professionals will often be at a disadvantage–because it is never advantageous to get into a disagreement with the media. Reporters and anyone else involved with the media always get the last word. This is because they control the medium.
When you do debate a reporter, keep it polite. Most reporters will remain open-minded and can even be susceptible to some persuasion. You might find they will play the role of the devil’s advocate simply to receive an emotional reaction and receive a better quote for their story. Make an effort to be concise, get to the point and keep the discussion civil. Use documentation to refute all negative points.
Once a story has actually run, it is typically not productive to argue with the media. Your principal might feel better if letters are sent to the editor, but the truth of the matter is that the damage has already been done. If the decision is made to send a letter to the editor, deal with the facts in the story. If you attack a news organization’s credibility, you will appear undignified.
Another option you might try to use is to have a separate story run on the topic that favors your perspective. Of course, you must also recognize that a second-day story always carries some risk because it will inevitably include negative information from the first day story. And there is never a guarantee you will receive a better story the second time around.
In determining whether you should offer a written statement or give an interview, there are many different things to take into consideration. In some cases a written statement may actually be preferable to giving an interview – less can be more.
A written statement works to limit the choices of a reporter regarding what can be quoted. In addition, the written statement increases the chance that you will actually be able to get your desired message across. Written statements also require less time, particularly regarding preparation.
Of course, there are disadvantages to providing a written statement rather than giving an interview. First, it is possible that a reporter becomes offended because she was not provided direct access, which can sometimes harm your coverage. Furthermore, a written statement can sometimes be viewed as a way to cover up guilt. Statements can also come across as sounding “canned,” rather than sincere.
An interview, on the other hand, often sounds more sincere and genuine. When handled appropriately, an interview can enhance your organization. It can also serve to improve your long-term relationship with the reporter handling the interview, which can be beneficial to future coverage.
At the same time, consider the possible disadvantages of an interview. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of giving an interview is that because it is on the record, something said that is inappropriate or unexpected can not be taken back. The reporter also has more opportunities regarding what they quote as well as the message that is covered in the interview. If your message is not advanced as a result of the interview, it can be a significant waste of time.
There are times when an interview may be more appropriate, just as there are times when a written statement may be a better choice. Generally, a statement will be a safer choice if it is more likely that a quote will be used. Statements can also reduce the ways in which an organization will be covered if the issue is related to something negative. For individuals who have weak interview skills, a statement is usually the best choice. Even so, a statement can never make up for the charisma that a live person can provide.