Aubia Communications

Competing agendas: What you don’t owe the media

Competing agendas: What you don’t owe the mediaIn April, the Aubia Communications blog will concentrate on media relations. I start with what you don’t owe the media, followed by reporter tricks of the trade to be aware of, and finish with a fun post on what fantasy characters have taught me about media relations.

I’ve said many times that interacting with media members is vital to a business’ success. Without these developed relationships, your business is lost in obscurity or at the whims of reporters who don’t know you or your values when a crisis arises. As important as these relationships are, though, there is a balance to them that is met by opposing forces.

Spokesperson v. Reporter

Though you need to have a relationship with media, never forget you have opposing objectives. The media is the watchdog of society. Where reporters and spokespeople work together to inform the public about a topic, the media takes it a step further to investigate matters while spokespeople aim to shape the issue. Where the ultimate goal of a reporter is to record and expose the facts, the spokesperson’s is to protect and promote the reputation of the organization.

While spokespeople are professionally and ethically obligated to tell the truth and provide as much information as possible, there are items they don’t owe the media.

1) Information that can put others’ safety in jeopardy

When information is of a secure nature and could endanger those who are working with it, then a spokesperson should not release that information..  You see this many times in cases of police investigations and military operations.

2) Information of a personal nature

When information is not pertinent to the story and would cause an undue invasion of an individual’s privacy, then it shouldn’t be released. Many times in crime stories, names of victims are withheld for this reason.

3Competing agendas: What you don’t owe the media) Information you don’t know

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is much better to say you don’t know than to make up an answer to be called out on later. If it is something you should know, let the reporter know you don’t have the information at that time, but you’ll be happy to follow up with him later. If it’s something that is out of your lane of expertise, let the reporter know you’re not the subject matter expert to speak on that topic.

4) Anything else exempted under the Freedom of Information Act

FOIA is a law that makes it mandatory for certain government-controlled information to be released to the public. There are nine exemptions to the law, any of which can be enacted within certain requirements. At all costs, organizations should avoid making a reporter file a FOIA request as it damages trust in the relationship.

Spokespeople should practice maximum disclosure with minimum delay in their media relations, but there are times that withholding information is the best practice. When information does need to be withheld, the spokesperson needs to explain why they are not releasing it. Having developed relationships with reporters will make these times easier and more acceptable, but don’t abuse them.

Have you ever had to withhold information from a reporter? How did it turn it out?

photo credit: ( kurtz ) via photopin cc

photo credit: via photopin cc

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