Speaking to the media is an art you need to master. It’s part of your brand.

Blog located in Branding, Leadership posted on May 31, 2013

The media is no longer defined by what we hear on TV or read in the papers or magazines for that matter. The media is also Social Media. Twitter is now the number one feed of information. The record was broken again when 3,085 tweets per second were posted after the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory in the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010.

The new information feed landscape is urging reporters to work faster and be a lot more aggressive with their quest to get the newest and the greatest of information. Their job is to get a great story out.

In 2010, I attended training with Leadership-in-action. Over a period of 2 days we were simulating working with people in distress, making decisions that will affect lives and livelihoods on the basis of incomplete and ambiguous information, while under pressure to act rapidly and answer to the frequent media interference. In the role of president of the company, I was urging my team not to speak to the media until such time we had a course of action lined up.

Unbeknownst to me, not talking to the media was the wrong thing to do.

At the end of the 2 days, we held a meeting with our staff and sure enough, the media was in attendance (again). I decided to speak to the reporter and explained the outcome of our meeting. The reporter was flabbergasted! I did not run away this time. This experience was a revelation to me. In fact, I was awarded with the Media Relations Award for having stepped –up and answered the questions of the reporter as opposed to ignoring him or asking him to leave.

I can’t prevent myself from asking who is advising the Mayor of Toronto, Doug Ford. Who is advising Senator Mike Duffy?

The media needs to hear something. Hearing nothing makes it worse.

Tip 1– Have some standard stock phrases to push aside media queries. You don’t need to answer anything. No matter how pushy the reporters are, and some will be very pushy – it’s their job. Some phrases to keep in mind include:

-No comment.
-I don’t wish to talk to the media at the present time. Thank you.
-Thank you.
-I wish to get to (hospital, work, school, etc.) right away. I don’t have the time to talk now.
-When I feel better or once I gather all the facts, etc. I may consider giving an interview. Until then, I am not able to talk about it.
-We are working on a plan of action. Once I am ready to talk to the media, I’ll call you for an exclusive.

Tip 2 – Be polite. Avoid getting into skirmishes since they turn to be into the mews instantly. Keep your cool and simply ask repeatedly, that the media and camera crews step aside to allow you through.

Tip 3 – Prevent the media to attend your meetings or ask them to leave the room.

Tip 4 – Don’t run away from the media while you are being taped. If you don’t wish to talk to them, plan an escape route.

Tip 5 – Avoid falling into the trap of “half talking” with the media and then calming up. The more you do say, the more the reporter has to translate into something of news. The reporter can come to a story with false assumptions which they give up when you give them proper evidence to the contrary.

Tip 6 – Have support. Have a neutral or strong willed person stand up to you to walk you through the scrum. Allow this person to do all the talking and to shield you as you pass through. Again, maintain a neutral appearance and stance so as not to provide any source of commentary about your attitude.

Tip 7 – Consider how you might talk to the media if you have to. If you don’t wish to talk to the media, you might chose to say to your communication advisor “I don’t wish to talk on camera but if you’d email me the questions, I’d be happy to respond in writing”.

Tip 8 – Alike having a personal brand in order to control what others are saying about you, you need to plan for how you will brand your interactions with the media.

Speaking to the media has to be planned ahead, be practiced and thought through, and can be speaking without answering the questions.

Master the art of answering the questions on your terms. Make it part of your personal brand.