Corrections, Clarifications, and “On the Record”

Do you have a sensitive media interview looming? Here is some more practical advice to help you navigate those rocky shoals.

  1. Remain flexible on the day of your interview. Media outlets are always besieged by breaking news.
  2. Don’t pester a journalist by asking when your article will appear in print or on the air. It is fine to ask at the conclusion of your interview, but don’t inundate her with daily calls checking on the Woman photogstatus.
  3. Stay “on the record” unless you are a front line communications practitioner accustomed to negotiating ground rules with journalists. This means everything you say and do is fair game for inclusion in the story.
  4. (Note: This tip applies to front line communications pros only) Agree upon the ground rules and get a positive assent from the reporter. Define in advance what terms of art like, “on background,” “off the record,” or “not for attribution” mean to both of you.
  5. Conduct “The Third Degree” when preparing for a crisis situation. Put your spokespeople behind a table in the front of a room with TV lights shining in their eyes and toss barbed inquiries at them during your media training workshop.
  6. Take into account the fact that reporters are always working. You remain on the record even during an after hours, seemingly casual chat.
  7. Remember that the interview begins as soon as you open your car door or as soon as the reporter enters your office building. Everything that anyone in your organization says and does is on the record.
  8. Keep in mind that the interview ends when your car door closes or when the reporter exits your building. Don’t let slip any inadvertent morsels as the elevator door is closing.
  9. Contact the reporter directly if you feel a correction, clarification, or retraction is necessary. If he made a mistake, you owe him the chance to rectify matters.
  10. Approach the reporter’s editor for a correction only if you gain no satisfaction from the reporter. And give the reporter the courtesy of telling him that you plan to get in touch with his editor.

What other steps do you advise to prepare for that big interview?



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