When an incident occurs at your organization, it is likely that reporters will want to find out more about it. To avoid speculation, hearsay, and a negative image caused by the press, there are several steps you can take to prepare for this encounter. Here are a few of them:
- Have a press kit ready in advance. The press kit should be a folder which contains the history of your organization and the situation, important phone numbers, and a list of positive things your organization has done in the recent past.
- Prepare short quotable passages. It is important to be brief so that you may avoid having your quotation altered or paraphrased to imply something other than what you directly meant.
To be effective, choose the point or phrase that you most want to get across and put the following in front of it -- "Well, the most important thing is . . ." Reporters love that phrase and search for it in every story.
- Practice dealing with reporters. Have a colleague or friend role play with you. Try to determine the types of questions you may be asked and then answer them. Have the other person try to follow up on the answers you gave.
- Use humor IF YOU HAVE IT AND IT IS GOOD! Bad jokes are worse than none at all.
- There is no shame in saying honestly "I don't know."
- If there is a very difficult question you MAY ask to think about it for a minute.
- Press the positive side of what you do.
- Plan ahead. Have a 3x5 card with message points ready. This will help determine who will set the agenda for the interview. You want to assume control gently. You want to ensure that there is accurate news from you rather than a slanted story.
- Utilize one consistent spokesperson.
- Never talk off the record, especially without knowing the reporter. Don't say anything you don't want to see on the air or in print.
- Do not ask to see the story before it goes to press -- the reporter won't let the source see it or control the story. However, before the reporters leave, do say "Let's review my quotes to make sure they're correct." This will give you a clue as to what the reporter selected and the angle the reporter has chosen (good, bad, or indifferent).
Source: Inter Fraternity Institute