At a recent media training course, one of the trainees had learnt a hard lesson about being ‘on the record’.
He’d sat next to a trade journalist at a dinner. He’d had a glass or two of wine. He’s told her a little more than he ought about a project his multi-national company was developing.
The following day he received an email say that she was going to run the story. This would have caused the company major problems with their client.
He sent an email to his Head of Communications, simply entitled HELP.
He learned this lesson the hard way – you are ALWAYS ALWAYS ‘on the record’, whatever the circumstances.
If a journalist is friendly, chatty, it’s because you are one of their sources.
Don’t get me wrong, they may well like you personally, but if you give them a cracking story they will want to run it, no matter no well you get on, and even if they don’t want to because they know it may damage your relationship (and end a valuable source of comment, insight and stories), their editor might insist.
However, journalists aren’t all cynical hacks. If you do inadvertently – or advertently – give them a story that they are desperate to run, you, or your PR department, may be able to negotiate with them to find a way to satisfy their editor while preserving your anonymity: ‘sources say’, ‘someone close to the investigation revealed.’
But beware, that can be dangerous. There is generally a limit to the number of potential sources or people close to an investigation so a story can often be traced back to its source.
Better not to get in that position in the first place.
Better to remain on your guard in every encounter with a journalist and make sure you only reveal what you want to reveal – if it is strategically valuable to your organisation or company to get a particular issue out into the public domain.
Make sure all your communications with journalists are cleared with your public relations department and are in line with your overall marketing and communications aims!
Our media training courses will give you a full set of dos and don’ts and how tos, plus plenty of practical experience, doing interviews. For more details, call us on 020 8332 6200 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org