Media Training: Three Reasons to (Almost) Always Stay On-The-Record
The words are pop culture heroes.
Movies such as "The Insider," books like "All The President's Men" and television series including "The West Wing" have immortalized them.
"On-the-record," "on background," "on deep background" and "off-the-record" are celebrity phrases, used regularly as shorthand to represent the mysteries of the journalism underworld.
In reality, these words aren't used all that frequently in newsrooms; moreover, they're not particularly helpful. Unless you're a whistleblower or working on sensitive issues at the highest levels of government, it is almost always better to remain "on-the-record," meaning that everything you say can be published and attributed to you.
As simple as this basic rule may seem, spokespeople regularly get coaxed into saying more than they intended. They may become comfortable with a reporter, decide to trust the wrong journalist, or develop the mistaken belief that a member of the press has agreed to their terms. It often backfires, with the interviewee facing an unwelcome dose of public scorn when the story hits.
Here are three reasons you should (almost) always stay on-the-record:
1) Definitions Vary - Different news organizations - and different reporters within those news organizations - define terms such as, "on background" and "off-the-record" differently. A simple Internet search reveals the problem - to some news organizations, off-the-record means the reporter can't mention your interview to even her mother, and to others, it means that your comments can be printed anonymously with the corroboration of just one other source. Without shared agreement on what the terms even mean, agreeing to an interview as anything other than on-the-record is a crapshoot.
2) Agreement Breeds Confusion - In 2002, Washington Post reporter Sally Squires interviewed Gary Taubes, an author who had written a controversial article for The New York Times Magazine challenging the accepted wisdom about the role of dietary fat in weight gain. Before agreeing to the interview, Taubes insisted that he have final approval of his quotes before they were allowed to run - in other words, that his comments were off-the-record until further notice. Ms. Squires agreed - or so he thought - so he was shocked and embarrassed when his overly candid remarks were printed. Far from being unusual, the ambiguity of agreements between reporter and source often leads to mismatched expectations.
3) "Official" Interviews Don't Exist - Many interviewees think they are on-the-record during the "official" interview, but off-the-record before and after. In fact, anything said in the presence of a reporter is quotable, including the off-handed remarks made at last night's dinner party.
In August 1984, for example, President Ronald Reagan famously leaned into a microphone for a sound check just prior to his weekly radio address. Joking around with those gathered in the room, Reagan quipped "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
Even though the comments weren't broadcast live, the microphone was on and two news networks recorded them. They almost immediately broadcast the comments, which they clearly deemed newsworthy in the midst of the Cold War.
The incident sparked international outrage, with the West German government pouncing on Reagan's comments as a sign of his ill will.
White House Spokesman Larry Speakes claimed that the news organizations acted irresponsibly since any remark made before the official radio address was "off-the-record." However, since the journalists didn't agree to that condition in advance, they had every right to air it.
To be sure, there are occasionally good reasons to leave the safety of an on-the-record conversation. Instances of corruption or fraud, for example, can be leaked to a reporter in an attempt to hold public officials or executives accountable. But do yourself a favor. If you're unclear of the rules or unfamiliar with the reporter, get a professional opinion before proceeding. It might save your "off-the-record" comments from appearing on tomorrow's front page.
Brad Phillips is the founder and president of Phillips Media Relations (http://www.PhillipsMediaRelations.com). He was formerly a journalist for ABC News and CNN, and also headed the media relations department for the second largest environmental group in the world.
Advertising by textad.biz
Go Ahead, click an ad, you know you want to.
How To Get Zero Cost Publicity For Your Business Part 1
Would you like to expand the volume of your business? You can let thousands know about your service, your store, or your new product without spending a penny. Whether you want to make more sales or get an offer on television, you can broaden the scope of your clients by free publicity.
Meet The Media
Although media relations is not all there is to PR, it is a darned good, low cost way to spread the word. So here are a few media contacts to help you out.
Generating Publicity: Will The Media Be Interested In My Product/Business?
When it comes to launching a new business or product, some marketing consultants might say that EVERY product is appropriate for a publicity or media exposure campaign. That is true to a degree, but as a PR/publicity professional and former media person, I would qualify that statement by saying that although new products would benefit from a solid publicity campaign, not all businesses or products and their pitches will grab the attention of the media.
Publicity: Nailing a Media Interview, Part II (Crisis Management)
We'd all like reporters to ask us about our career successes and personal triumphs-heck, we'd all like anyone to ask us about those. But reporters must look out for their clients, the reading public.
Its Just Common Sense!
When a group of outsiders behaves in a way that hurts your business, you usually do something about it. Yet, many business people are amazingly casual about their own external audiences.
Preparing For Your Media Interview
Media interviews are an important part of an overall public relations campaign. Any size company from entrepreneur to Fortune 500 can benefit from media interviews.
How Video Production can be used in PR
At the core of any successful public relations campaign is effective communication.Yet in this technological era, there are now more methods than ever to convey important messages to different audiences.
Foolproof Publicity for Marketing-Minded Financial Planners
They'd hate to admit it, but the media is pretty predictable.There are some stories that will run in newspapers until the saints go marching in.
Why PR is a Vital Force
Because it can alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors. Something of profound importance to businesses, non-profits and associations who can sink or swim on how well they employ this crucial dynamic.
What You Dont Know About PR Can Hurt You
And hurt bad if you are a business, non-profit or association manager. Especially when you rely too heavily on tactics like special events, brochures and press releases to get your money's worth.
How to Form a Relationship with a Newspaper
How do you make a good relationship with a newspaper so that you can get new contacts?Newspaper relationships are probably the most difficult relationships to form. Often a newspaper will have different departments that look after advertising, human interest stories, editorials and daily news.
Making the News - Tips from A News Journalist
What makes a good media release and how do you engage the media with your story idea? How do you pitch stories to the media, especially hard-nosed news hounds who can sniff out a 'puff piece' a mile away?The media receives literally hundreds of media releases a day, many which are instantly disregarded. Why? A number of factors contribute to the demise of a media release, one key aspect however that contributes to a well written and published releases is the writers ability to be media savvy, that is identify the aspects an editor is looking for when selecting the day's news.
Public Relations 8 Fix Factors
I say to business, non-profit and association managers, a key part of your job description is - or should be - do everything you can to help your organization's public relations effort as it strives to persuade important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking. Especially when it's YOUR PR program that is tasked to move those stakeholders to behaviors that lead to the success of YOUR department or division.
How To Get Zero Cost Publicity For Your Business Part 2
This is the ending to my previous article, How to get no cost publicity for your business. Some other options include signature files, joint ventures, free for all links, informational articles, webrings, and giveaways.
Publicity - How to Write a Headline That Will Garner Free Publicity
Taking your ad and turning it into paragraph-style prose is not a press release - chances are it will only lead the publisher to call and invite you to run it as a paid ad. A press release is for news or for information about a topic the audience needs to know.
The Press Release: How to Get the Media to Pay Attention!
As many of you already know, promoting and marketing your business in as many creative ways as possible is crucial to the success of your venture. But finding ways to get noticed presents a major challenge for most entrepreneurs.
Why PR is an Engine for Economic Growth
Business, non-profit and association managers committing their public relations resources to (1) doing something about the behaviors of those important outside audiences that most affect their operation, (2) creating the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving their managerial objectives, and (3) doing so by persuading those key outside folks to their way of thinking by helping to move them to take actions that allow their department, division or subsidiary to succeed - greatly increase the chances of success for their operation.Thus, feeding the engine of their own economic growth AND that of the nation at large.
Auto Detailing Public Relations; United Way Withholding
As a mobile detailing company it is important to have some key corporate accounts where you can show up weekly and wash and detail cars for executives. One promotion you can do to help secure such accounts is to join in with the United Way in their promotion.
Mind Your Own Business!
And the best way to mind your own business is to insure that those audiences whose behaviors have the greatest effect on your enterprise keep thinking about you in the most positive way. Reason is, bad behaviors often follow bad perceptions, so what your external audiences think about you can mean success or failure.
Getting Free Publicity with Radio Interviews
Imagine that you are a radio producer. You have to fill three hours a day, five days a week, every single week.
|home | site map|