A couple of weeks ago Donald Trump dismissed his executive assistant for disclosing personal information to the press during an off-the-record dinner. According to several media outlets, a deputy press secretary, who was at the dinner, left the executive assistant alone with reporters for 45 minutes. This was poor media relations practice.
As a matter of personal policy, I don’t publicly criticize other media relations professionals. At the same time, a great opportunity availed itself that allows me to provide some tips on working with the media.
Here are some things you can learn from what occurred.
Act like you are holding a gun
Holding a firearm, for safety reasons you always assume it is loaded. It is the same when you are with a reporter. No matter where you are, what you are doing, or the topic of conversation, always assume that what you say will be used in a story. Seasoned reporters know the best stuff comes when a source has let down their guard.
Off- the-record should be treated like stealing home in baseball
Providing off-the-record information should be used sparingly and only when many things are aligned. Off the record is a cordial agreement between a reporter and their source. It is not legally binding. What keeps a reporter from disclosing the information is the relationship repercussions that occur from disclosing the information. Sometimes the reporter benefits more from releasing the information than from abiding by the off-the-record agreement.
Follow the buddy system
Treat sitting down with a reporter like you are going for an ocean swim. Always have a buddy. If you get into trouble you have someone watching that can help if needed. They are there to listen and keep you safe. This does not mean jumping in front of the camera during a live interview. It does mean having a person listening and making sure you are on message and not saying anything you shouldn’t.
The Gotfried Group’s Media Relations Service
Since 2001, Steven Gotfried, the principal and CEO of The Gotfried Group has worked with every major television news outlet in the United States, a majority of the largest newspapers, and many of the top radio news outlets. To learn more about The Gotfried Group’s media relations services, please click here.