These are my rules and you can’t have them. I discovered them during my years as a photojournalist/public affairs specialist and as a magazine editor. Some of the rules will cause a corporate lawyer to turn either beet red or white as a sheet.
1. Never LIE to the media. If they (the media) are halfway competent or three-quarters lucky, they will catch you at it. The repercussions are never fun.
2. If you don’t know the answer to a question the correct answer is always, “I don’t know but I will find out and get back to you.”
3. Always call the reporters back if you tell them you will. (They get mad if you don’t).
4. Members of the media can be your friends as long as you have something they want. They can also rip you to shreds if they are in the mood. Don’t give them any excuse to nail you.
5. Provide clear, concise, factual information. Don’t try to BS your way out of a question or situation.
6. Never say anything you don’t want to see as a headline. There is NO SUCH THING AS OFF THE RECORD. The reporter you’re talking to may not identify you, but there is no guarantee that the statement won’t be attributed to an “unnamed source.” There is also no guarantee that someone overhearing the discussion won’t use it and name you as the source. This also means no joking around or making witty remarks.
7. Understand that in a crisis, the lawyers will do everything they can to prevent you from doing your job. The lawyers job is to prevent any information that can be used against the organization from getting out – especially if it’s the truth.
8. Once you have identified your key points, stick to those points. Know that the media will ask the same question 10 different ways in hope of getting conflicting answers.
9. Remember your job is to provide information about your organization. It is not to represent any other party. Only speak to what your organization is doing or has done. Do not become the spokesperson for any other organization.
10. Do not call a press conference/briefing unless you have new information that needs to be released. Don’t call a conference or briefing just to say “nothing has changed” – you will waste your time and the media’s time. If there are no major developments, send a press release out by email or phone calls to your media contacts.
(This was originally published on my blog Macpappy’s World.