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“School of Hard Knocks” - Rules for Dealing With Media

January 18, 2012

Since many of you deal frequently with members of the Fourth Estate, I thought it might be appropriate to share the seven golden rules of dealing successfully with media I developed during the past 49 years in this business.  While these rules may seem obvious to you, many practitioners continue to break them on a daily basis – and pay the price!

Rule #1.  If you don’t want to read it in the newspaper, see it on TV, hear on the radio or read on someone’s website – then don’t say it!

Rule #2.  No interview is over until the reporter is in his or her car and on the way home.  Don’t be fooled by the closing notebook, small talk while waiting for the elevator or the pregnant pause.

Rule #3.  “Off the record” rarely is (see Rule #1).  All interviews should be on the record and for attribution.

Rule #4.  Always tell the truth.  This doesn’t means that you’re obligated to tell everything you know on any given subject

Rule #5.  PR people and reporters should enjoy an adversarial relationship.  This is both healthy and professional.

Rule #6.  Never agree to an interview without having a list in mind of the major points you want to make.

Rule #7.  Don’t answer questions that require you to speculate.  Such questions usually start with the word “if.”Fred Morgan

Over the years, I’ve found that the time spent working with the media to be the most challenging and rewarding of my career.  But with these challenges comes danger – and I guess that’s what makes media relations so exciting.  And this reminds me of the old saying:  “Unlike doctors, who bury their mistakes, PR people print (or air) theirs for the world to see.”

Good Luck!

Fred Morgan, APR, Fellow PRSA

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