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Is this thing on? Media relations and "Off the record"

By Heather M. Hilliard

643407_sWhy nothing said is “off the record" and how PR can improve your media relations

Most people have witnessed a moment in a live television broadcast when someone on camera blurts out something inappropriate or controversial. Or, a company spokesperson is quoted in a newspaper saying something unsavory or offensive and his response is that he thought it was “off the record.” When these moments occur, the audience cringes and thinks why would someone say that? The reason this happens is typically because the speaker thinks the camera isn’t recording or that the conversation is confidential. But what causes a person to lose focus in this way? How can you avoid having this happen to you?

There are three general reasons for bad press moments:

  1. A person’s desire to be needed or relevant overtakes plans.

  2. A weak moment is used as a key message or main idea of an entire exchange.

  3. An inherent drive for control causes a person to react poorly when losing ground in a situation.

It’s important to remember that sometimes in business, personal relationships are not authentic – each party is primarily focused on their individual goals. During an interaction, each person’s purpose becomes “how is this going to best serve me and my goals?” But sometimes, a false sense of intimacy is created, like a buddy talking to a buddy, instead of one professional speaking to another – and an assumption is made that information can be shared privately. This is a big mistake – especially in interactions with the media.

This can further devolve into a speaker having the distraction of “me, Me, ME” that echoes through everything he or she does. The spokesperson’s statements end up ringing false and the people listening can tell. The “blurt” happens because the speaker reacted to an emotional trigger when it was critical to remain a leader and stay on message.  

To combat the moment when you wish your speech had an “undo button,” there are several things you can do to minimize negative sound bites. Beyond remembering the spotlight is always on (and you are being recorded, possibly by anyone that has a smart phone), how can you improve your interactions with people as well as the media?

  1. Know yourself and where you fit; don’t push to be something that you’re not. Remember, the highest-level leader may not be the best speaker on a particular topic.

  2. Be authentic all of the time. If you use a facade or mask in professional life, the likelihood that it will crumble under stress increases.

  3. Understand your subject matter. You cannot control a situation, but by being prepared to speak to media (or large groups in general), your message will be better received.

There are additional ways you can have more authentic relationships and build your positive reputation. At Axia Public Relations, we can help connect you with journalists and gain their interest, while meeting your objectives too. Download your toolkit now to learn how to generate positive news coverage for your business.

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HHilliard_2014_Head_Shot_1-1Heather M. Hilliard is a marketing and strategic planning professional with expertise in crisis management communications. Earning two master’s degrees and her international Certified Emergency Manager credential, she has worked during disasters as well as “normal business” to offset impact in preparedness for large- and small-scale events in a variety of industries. She has been an adjunct professor for Tulane University for five years and currently focuses on strategic communications and improvements for clients.





Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, media, spokesperson training

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