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The Press Call Out of the Blue from
A manager’s nightmare? The unexpected call from a reporter asking for yourcomment on an issue that you know nothingabout! “Oh, drat! It’s a reporter!”
Role-playing walk-through Receive a press inquiry Develop a response Do a press interview Evaluate results
When a reporter calls The Scenario
When a reporter calls The Scenario “Stop the presses!” “It’s a landslide!”
When a reporter calls The Scenario “A reclaimed mine site!” “Hundreds of acres!”
When a reporter calls The Scenario “Sludge is filling the local stream!”
When a reporter calls The Scenario The president of Mastodon Coal Company said: “We restored that site to state standards. I have documents proving the state signed off on the work 10 years ago.”
When a reporter calls The Scenario The coordinators of the local environmental group say: “This just proves the state hasn’t been doing its job!”
When a reporter calls The Scenario A former employee who promotes himself as a “whistle-blower” said: “This administration is completely sold out to the coal companies.”
When a reporter calls The Scenario Unnamed sources at the Environmental Protection Agency said: “This casts doubt on the whole reclamation process.”
When a reporter calls What role are you expected to play? The Bad Guy The Bully The Boob There are a limited number of roles available for government spokespeople
When a reporter calls Class Discussion What’s your response?
When a reporter calls Be accessible and responsive. Don’t be stupid. YOUR MISSION: Find out what’s going on! Take the call or return the call as soon as possible. Don’t try to offer answers or explanations immediately Determine whether the reporter has called the right agency. Ask questions -- interview the interviewer
When a reporter calls Find out more than the reporter does What is the story? Who has the reporter already talked to?
When a reporter calls Be helpful, but non-committal Don’t promise anything you aren’t sure you can deliver. “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.” Use the magic words: “I’ll get right back to you.” “I’ll do my best.” If you make promises – keep them! It goes without saying: Never lie.
After you hang up Now what? Don’t panic Take a deep breath Coordinate If necessary, sound the alarm Investigate Get all the facts Articulate Get your message nailed down Anticipate Get answers to questions ready. Communicate Deliver your message Evaluate Did you succeed?
Prepare for the interview Coordinate – Who else needs to know or be consulted? Your Boss? The Attorneys? Public Affairs?
Prepare for the interview Investigate What has the reporter written before? Is he knowledgeable or a newbie? Does he already have a point of view? Don’t take anything a reporter tells you at face value. He may not have enough information. He may not understand what he does have. He may not tell you everything he knows.
Prepare for the interview Investigate What do your agency’s experts have to say?
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing No known deaths, injuries or damage to private property. Remote area, no nearby homes or communities. Appears to be wholly within boundaries of the Hickory Creek State Wildlife Refuge Slide located on east side of Jackson County near Hopewell County Line Reclaimed mine site. Slide affects an estimated 320 acres. We don’t know when it happened Reported this morning by a county conservation officer Photographed this morning by a State Forest Service plane on routine flight
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing Six months ago Only known impact is partial burying of Hickory Creek Aerial photos show stream impacted with debris. No visual sign of AMD or other contamination. This morning
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing A sediment plume is prominent downstream, where Hickory Creek joins Roaring River. This sediment, reported by boaters, is what alerted the local conservation officer to the slide.
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing Approximately 40 miles downstream of the slide, the Roaring River flows through the state’s principle agricultural region.
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing Approximately 120 miles downstream of the slide, the Roaring River flows through the city of Boulder City, the state capital.
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing Site was previously mined and reclaimed by Mastodon Coal Company Reclamation finished and bond released 10 years ago. Land purchased by the state six years ago. Now a state wildlife refuge.
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing According to AVS, Mastodon Coal has 4 outstanding federal violations. Boris Blackheart, chairman of Mastodon Coal… …is a close friend and major political supporter of our governor, “Copperhead” Jim Boles.
Prepare for the interview Investigate – Incident Briefing This landslide is the third reclamation-related incident in six months Failure of a valley fill in West Virginia Abandoned mine blowout in Kentucky
Prepare for the interview Investigate - Questions?
Prepare for the interview Articulate - Develop your message - know what you want to say What do you most want to talk about? What is your agency’s core mission? Have 2 or 3 core talking points What are you going to get across no matter what? Make succinct points What if only one of your talking points gets in the story?
Prepare for the interview What’s your “sound bite” message? What you do “We bring good things to life” What you stand for “Truth, Justice, American Way” What you offer “Low prices every day” What your customers can expect “Protect and Serve”
Prepare for the interview What’s your “sound bite” message? Say it! “First and foremost…….” Show it! “The reason for that is…” Repeat it! “Please remember that…”
Prepare for the interview Anticipate - Get out your crystal ball What questions do we expect the reporter will ask? What follow-up questions will our answers generate? What’s the worst possible question we could be asked? What’s the worst possible way it could be asked?
Prepare for the interview Articulate - What role do you want to play?
The interview Articulate Class exercise Groups have ?? Minutes to confer. One person from each group becomes a reporter. Develop your message Write Qs and As Select a spokesperson Make a statement to reporters Each reporter writes a headline You’re free to make up anything that doesn’t conflict.
The interview “All right, Mr. DeMille. I’m ready for my close-up.” The basics: Call before the reporter’s deadline Have your facts and documents handy Take a time to think about the question before answering Make succinct points – “sound bites” Repeat your message points as much as necessary Bridge from negative questions to positive points Try to avoid sounding evasive Expect anything you say to appear in print --no “off the record” comments
The interview “Let me make this perfectly clear” PLEASE: Keep it simple – use plain English No jargon – no acronyms Explain difficult concepts Use simple examples Be colloquial – talk like a real person Fax or email documents, graphs and statistics
The interview Pay attention DON’T: Don’t accept the premise of a question if it’s wrong – correct it! Don’t let the reporter put words in your mouth. Don’t be defensive Don’t speak for other people or agencies Don’t speculate on hypothetical scenarios Stick to what you know. Don’t let yourself get lured off the subject
The interview Take the High Road – there’s less traffic! Avoid: Confrontation Name-calling Personal remarks Belittling the reporter, the press, your critics
The interview NEVER: Lie Guess Bluff Lose your temper Say “no comment” (If you can’t discuss it, say why.)
The story Anything you say can be used against you. “Why, this makes me look like some kind of a….a monster!” To respond or let it slide? Is it really “incorrect?” Factual errors vs. “tone” Responses: Call the reporter Letters to the editor Editorial board End-arounds Webpage Other press Is it really wrong? Is it worth fighting about? Does it matter?
Review Coordinate If necessary, sound the alarm Investigate Get all the facts Articulate Get your message nailed down Anticipate Get answers to questions ready. Communicate Deliver your message Evaluate Did you succeed?
Review Receiving Press Inquiries Learn more than the reporter Develop a Response Boil it down to your coremission Conduct the interview Stay on message Evaluate Results Know what matters
Epilogue Keep trying! And remember, WE are the ones who work for the public.
The End ?