3 Essential Rules for Dealing with the Media
During my journey, as a lawyer and owner of a crisis communications firm, I’ve had to deal with the media countless times. Along the way, I have learned a lot and shared tips with clients that have prevented them from making some big mistakes when dealing with reporters. Here are some of my go to tips I want to share with you so you can effectively handle the media.
Rule 1: It is completely okay to be silent.
We understand that the pressure is amplified when you are in front of a camera with a million questions coming at you, but one of the best things you can do is use silence. Often times people do not take enough time to actually gather their thoughts before speaking to the media. The pressure gets to them and they get in front of the camera and start blabbing the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately, this frequently leads to saying something you didn’t mean. When you use silence effectively, you will feel much more prepared. Simply take a minute, pause while you gather your talking points, and then speak. Having your client use silence like a weapon in their communications arsenal will help them communicate effectively and stick to the message.
Rule 2: Call reporters back.
I know I just made a point about using your silence, but in this case silence is not the route you want to take. I understand that you want to protect your client but being silent can be detrimental to your case when handling the court of public opinion. Reporters are going to run a story regardless, so make sure it is your story and message that gets to the public. If you want to really be an expert, when you reach out to reporters ask when the deadline is for the story to be published and arrange a time to speak with them. This action will help you make sure your message is reported and that your client’s voice is being heard.
Rule 3: Remember that the camera is always on.
In the media, I’ve seen a lawyer’s client lay out their points clearly, answer every question respectfully, use their silence, but then start running their mouth as soon as they think the camera or mic is off. Even if your client did everything else perfectly, that’s the footage that is going to be used. It’s always safe to assume that if there is any type audio or visual recording device in your vicinity, that it is on and recording.
There’s nothing worse than being unprepared when dealing with reporters because they will find your weakness and exploit it. Keeping these three tips in mind will help you and your clients be successful when dealing with the media. If you want even more tips to become a media savvy lawyer, click here to receive a free excerpt from my book, "Only Morons Say No Comment: Rules for Dealing with the Media."