Media Training: When Reporters Bully You

UNDER FIRE

A friend whose organization is often in the media spotlight recently told me a story about her boss. Her boss, let's call her Susan, is on the leadership team for a lobbying group that represents a somewhat unpopular industry.

Susan was interviewed a few months ago by Dateline NBC Correspondent Lea Thompson about a topic that could make her organization look bad. She knew she'd have to answer tough questions.

Nervous about saying something embarrassing about her organization, Susan carefully prepared for the interview. She developed her main messages, thought about the worst questions she could possibly face and practiced her responses.

When the interview began, Susan stayed on message. Thompson tried to throw her off, but Susan wouldn't budge. Thompson pushed and prodded, trying to get Susan to say something ? anything ? more controversial. She wouldn't.

That's when Ms. Thompson employed the old journalistic trick of trying to intimidate her subject. In middle of the interview, Ms. Thompson asked the cameraman to stop recording, scolded Susan for not answering her questions, and asked for a five minute break.

And my sources tell me that this is not the first time Ms. Thompson has used this tactic ? she's used it before with at least one other interviewee from a different organization.

An inexperienced spokesperson would have been flustered. He or she would have returned from the break with something different to say. Not Susan. She knew that Dateline NBC was simply a conduit to a larger audience and that she had full control of her own words.

It worked. When the interview aired, Susan's quotes were right on message. By sticking to her messages and consistently repeating her most important points, she ensured that Dateline's millions of viewers heard the most important things she had to say.

WHY CAN'T I BE MORE?REAL?

The trainees I work with often wonder if they wouldn't have more credibility if they acknowledged a few of their own weaknesses during an interview, instead of being perfectly on message. Doing so is occasionally appropriate, but here's why it's dangerous:

1. The answer you give which points out your own shortcomings will be the one that is used. Your other answers ? including your positive points ? will be edited out.

2. It is not your job to be your own critic ? that is the job of the reporter and your opponents quoted in the piece. In order for a truly "balanced" piece, you have to be positive toward yourself ? your opponents will happily point out your imperfections for you.

BUT BE CAREFUL

I'd like to raise three cautions with this approach. First, frustrated reporters will occasionally edit together clips of the guest repeating the same answer over and over again and will air it to show the guest's evasiveness. It's a technique that can severely damage a guest's credibility, but is easy to circumvent ? if you develop multiple ways of saying the same thing and support your messages with specific examples.

Second, this approach works well if you're defending an ideology or point of view you truly believe in. But if you or your organization did something wrong, it's not good enough. You'll need to admit your faults, apologize, and articulate your action plan to make it better.

And third, this approach worked because the interview was taped, not live. If the program was live, the audience would have quickly tired of Susan's antics. But since she knew that Dateline NBC tends to use short sound bites instead of longer interviews, she was confident the audience would never see her repetitive messaging technique.

THE END GAME

In the end, both women performed their jobs admirably. Ms. Thompson led a tough journalistic investigation, exposing an industry that probably deserved the scrutiny. And, as for Susan? She represented her organization's point of view perfectly.

Brad Phillips is the founder and president of Phillips Media Relations. He was formerly a journalist for ABC News and CNN, and headed the media relations department for the second largest environmental group in the world.

For more information and to sign up for free monthly media relations and media training e-tips, visit http://www.PhillipsMediaRelations.com

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

POLITICO Magazine

Trump Is Winning His PR Battle With Mueller. So What?
POLITICO Magazine
Trump's accusers and their allies woke up this morning fretting perhaps for the first time that perhaps their quarry would elude special counsel Robert S. Mueller's net. Axios's Mike Allen noted in the lead item of his morning newsletter that the “anti ...
Donald J. Trump on Twitter: "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice ...Twitter
Mueller Hopes Obstruction Inquiry Into Trump May Wrap Up by Sept. 1, Giuliani SaysNew York Times
FBI Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump ClaimsNew York Times

all 1,751 news articles »

Marketing Interactive

Airbnb picks Text100 Malaysia for PR duties
Marketing Interactive
Airbnb has appointed Text100 Malaysia to manage PR duties for the market until the end of the year, following a pitch held during the first week of May this year. The agency will be responsible for developing and executing Airbnb's consumer public ...


Editor at Large

How to maximize your PR potential
Editor at Large
For brands today, the correct media strategy is akin to a smart investment strategy: diversification. People no longer only get their information from one source. They don't listen to the radio as much, or watch live TV, or only read magazines or books ...


Macon Daily

Starbucks' PR Crisis May Be Getting Worse
Motley Fool
The event created a public-relations nightmare for a company that prides itself on not just being a third place but also on being progressive by offering employees "bean stock," healthcare, and help with college tuition. A few years ago, Starbucks even ...
Look Here for Safe High-Yield Investments and Guaranteed ReturnsInvestorplace.com
California Justices Focus on 'Seconds, Not Minutes' in Starbucks Labor CaseTheStreet.com
Starbucks: Not Holding For Growth, But For DividendsSeeking Alpha
Seeking Alpha -Zacks Investment Research
all 143 news articles »

Seton Hall University News & Events

Students and Alumni Celebrate PR Program Accomplishments
Seton Hall University News & Events
Students and alumni within the College of Communication and the Arts gathered together for Points of PRide, an annual Public Relations student-alumni networking event. Co-sponsored by Seton Hall's Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), ...


Ars Technica

EPA boots reporters from meeting on chemicals called a PR disaster
Ars Technica
Scott Pruitt's tenure as head of the US' Environmental Protection Agency has often been bogged down in scandals involving questionable spending and the unjustifiable rollback of regulations. But the latest controversy is one the agency's own making.
White House, EPA headed off chemical pollution studyPolitico
The Latest: EPA bars AP, CNN from summit on contaminants - AP NewsAP News
Basic Information on PFAS | Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) | US EPAEPA
The Hill -EPA
all 196 news articles »

TPM

Mueller Team Hints At Still-Unrevealed PR Firms Involved In Manafort Case
TPM
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team suggested Wednesday that there were other yet-to-be-revealed public relations firms involved in Paul Manafort's Ukraine lobbying scheme beyond those already referenced specifically in the indictment. The hint came ...

and more »

PR - Account Executive
mediabistro.com
We are a fast paced, high energy mid-size public relations agency and we're looking for a self-motivated, pro-active Account Executive with strong media pitching skills to join our dynamic team. You will work on several well-known beauty and lifestyle ...


The Conversation AU

Israel is prioritising PR over peace-building in the Middle East
The Conversation AU
The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem last week represented a major PR coup for Israel, a move the country had sought for decades. It also came hot on the heels of another celebrated Israeli PR victory – the win by Israeli singer Netta Barzilai in ...
Israel lost the PR battle over Gaza. Was it unwinnable or just mismanaged?The Times of Israel
Israel is prioritizing PR over peace-buildingUPI.com
When Good PR Means Dead JewsJewish Journal
National Post
all 553 news articles »

MyNorthwest.com

Seattle tries PR campaign as part of encampment sweeps
MyNorthwest.com
By Deborah Horne, KIRO 7. Seattle has a new strategy to convince taxpayers they're making a dent in the homeless population. The number of cleared encampments was mentioned during a presentation to the Seattle City Council's Civil Rights Committee as ...

Google News

Making the News - Tips from A News Journalist

What makes a good media release and how do you... Read More

Public Relations Productivity

Should it be measured in "publicity by the pound," or... Read More

How To Make Time For Public Relations

"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly... Read More

Pot Roast and Public Relations (or, How Your Web Site Can Be Your Best P.R. Tool)

Recently I had a craving for... Read More

Something New For Managers?

A new public relations blueprint could be a good idea... Read More

Public Relations Going O.K?

Yes?Good!Still, as a business, non-profit or association manager, if you're... Read More

Cultivating Positive Media Relationships

Some people think that publicity is all about paparazzi snapping... Read More

Is PR Right for You? 6 Questions to Ask

When most people think about marketing, they think advertising. While... Read More

Marketing-Minded Financial Planners, Focus on Main Points During an Interview

You never want to inundate a reporter with information, but... Read More

How To Write More Powerfully For PR, Offline And Online

Years ago when my Dad owned a group of local... Read More

Custom Reasons for Custom Publishing

Once considered the stepchild of the publishing industry, custom publishing... Read More

Publicity Performance Not Enough?

Even after a nice piece in a national publication, or... Read More

Media Relations: Should You Pay For News Coverage, Part II

Last month, we told you about "pay for play," a... Read More

Is There a Plumber in the House?

I don't know about you but I get really frustrated... Read More

Do-It-Yourself PR: An Accident Waiting to Happen

Early in my career as a public relations consultant, I... Read More

Think Like a Reader, Viewer, or Listener to Get Great Publicity

About a year ago I read a feature story in... Read More

Getting Traffic Through Publicity

If your reading this, you must be online and most... Read More

Mastering the Media

What do Monica Lewinsky, Shoshanna Lowenstein, and even Richard Hatch... Read More

How PR Helps Fiercely Competitive Managers

Fiercely combative business, non-profit and association managers use every PR... Read More

Crisis Management

The Internet may have opened worlds for businesses and consumers,... Read More

Effective Media Relations Tips- What To Do After The Media Interviews You!

Effective Media Relations Tips - What To Do After The... Read More

How to Tie-In With News Events to Score Publicity

It's safe to say that we live in interesting times.... Read More

Managers: Why Not PR Like This?

I mean public relations that presumes from the get-go that... Read More

Publicity - How To Get Your Story on Television

A press release telling about "Stevie, the Water-Skiing Squirrel" will... Read More

Forget the Press Release - Heres How to Pitch Like Roger Clemens

Stripped down to its core, publicity is little more than... Read More