Sunday, September 4, 2016

Media Interview Tip: The Reporter is Not your Friend

During the media training portion of our crisis communications workshops, we always drill into participants that the reporter is not your friend. This is because the reporter's job is to report the news and they are professionally bound to report the whole truth as they know it. The reporter also knows that a company will only show what it wants to show, hence the cat and mouse game. Interviewees and media liaison officers should therefore be very careful during casual chats with reporters as this is when they will probe for information.
During a recent consult with a client, the client had successfully completed an on-camera interview with the local media. As the topic was trending, the interview gained extensive coverage both in the main stream and online media. Out of the blue, we received a call from the Editor of an online media platform. The Editor wanted to seek "clarification" on a word our client had used during the interview. The Editor claimed that it was not clear what our client had meant.
We were stumped as the word used was carefully selected so as not to insinuate the competitor as this would be in poor taste and likely to result in unnecessary retaliatory comments. After thinking the issue through and doing some quick message testing on whether the word used was clear, we realized that the Editor was attempting to create a controversy so as to increase viewership on his media platform. We discussed this with the client and told the Editor that the client declined his request for clarification.
While not all reporters (in this case an Editor) are as devious as the one we encountered, this only goes to reinforce the adage that the reporter is not your friend.

(Note: We apologize that we cannot be more specific with the example as this would betray client confidentiality)

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