Divide and conquer. Don’t think for a moment that reporters will hesitate to play this game with your chamber or association.
The issue experts at one association loved talking to reporters. Journalists would call on their direct line or cozy up to them at a meeting, trying to shake loose intelligence they couldn’t gain from the communications staff—information not yet ripe for public consumption.
The experts, to their organization’s detriment, lacked an understanding of the rules of the journalistic road.
How the Media Works
How did this association handle this dilemma? No, not by shouting or scolding. Rather, they created a strategic program to educate senior staff about the finer points of dealing with the media. They drew up a one-page document outlining who interacts with the press on what basis.
This mattered, for some of the experts were cleared to speak on the record while some of the more junior staffers spoke only on background. Moreover, the policy spelled out that no one was to enter into a media interview without the knowledge and consent of the communications staff.
Does your chamber or association have a clear, written communications strategy policy? Such a document can spare you headaches down the road.
Building a Sustained Program
What elements were included in their professional development program? The content focused on best media relations practices, including:
- How to develop, regularly evaluate, and deliver a consistent message.
- The particulars of “off the record” and other media ground rules.
- The necessity of ongoing practice.
- Nonverbal communications.
- How to deal with Q&A.
- Insights into how reporters work and what they need from their sources.
- The necessity of assessing feedback after each interview.
Sketching the Communications Map
The multi-day agenda also devoted time to a review of the communications policy. It served as a reminder to rely on their professional communicators, touching upon the value they bring to the organization and why it was important to follow their guidance.
What were the results? A post-program survey reported highly positive feedback, with several of the experts requesting additional professional development opportunities to further fine tune their communications skills.
What’s your take on the issue? How would you handle this situation in your organization? Contribute to the discussion by sharing your thoughts in the “Leave a reply” section below.