Political campaigns have always amused me, whether it be the contest for President, Governor or a local office. All politicians sound like they have all the answers to every problem known to man, and if you will vote for them, everything will be fine.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Politicians - like the rest of us - put their pants on one leg at a time. Part of what I value about my participation with NACIO is that I learn so much just be interacting with PIOs and public affairs directors from across the country. A good Public Information Office does know a lot about media relations, but even the best PIOs are always stretching themselves to learn more.
Several months ago, I started a thread on the LinkedIn website asking on advice on responding to media inquires for local government employees who don't typically deal with reporters. I got a lot of interesting tidbits that I thought I would share with my fellow NACIO members.
The overwhelming piece of advice mentioned by several posters was to prepare for the interview. In fact, most folks who mentioned this repeated the word "prepare" several times - the point being that you cannot be over-prepared for an interview. There is an old military maxim that sums up this point - time spent in reconnaisance is seldom time wasted.
Here are some other good pieces of advice:
- Don't go "off the record."
- Don't wear sunglasses!
- Always close with a positive takeaway message.
- Remember that the camera is always rolling, so answer every question asked by the reporter
- It is imperative to respond quickly to a reporter's call, but not imperative that you answer a reporter's question with that first call back. (This is a great piece of advice. Many folks not accustomed to working with the media will panic when they realize a reporter is on the other end of the phone and start babbling. Take some time to prepare - see point No. 1 above - and then call the reporter back once you have figured out what you want to say.)
- Never say "No Comment."
- Tell the truth. As a good friend of mine was fond of saying, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said."
- Deadlines don't exist any more. Social media and the Internet have eliminated the concept of deadlnes, so if a crisis occurs, be ready to get your message out immediately.