In Australian politics, a salient message was delivered recently to business executives about going ‘off the record’ – it cost a Victorian State Government Minister his job.
In today’s society, the media needs large volumes of information faster than ever before. The growth of social media and online publications is pushing the traditional media to get this information, sometimes at any cost. In this environment, ‘off the record’ comments can become an easy opportunity for competitive advantage. The truth is, ‘off the record’ is never really ‘off the record’.
In effect, in going ‘off the record’, you’re actually asking the reporter not to do his or her job. Their job is to find information and report on it. To fulfill this, all they have to do is put your ‘off the record’ comments to someone else and get an ‘on the record’ response.
There is always someone around your business who is ready to go ‘on the record’ – competitors, dissatisfied current or former employees, or disgruntled customers.
Simply stated, never expect anything you say around a reporter not to hit the media in some form or another. Simply assume that whatever you say will be online today or on the front page tomorrow. Therefore, the rule for ‘off the record’, if one understands the media and how it operates, is to assume it doesn’t exist.
In short, fully understand the information game you are playing and how to play it. Don’t blame the journalist for what you have told him or her when it appears on, or in the news. Journalist have their job to do, so too do you.
Carefully think about everything you say, don’t be pressured into commenting on things you don’t feel comfortable about, stay on message, don’t speculate, don’t try to show off how much you know and don’t gossip.
Being knowledgable about working with the media is an increasingly important skill for any senior executive’s. RMKA has been working in this area for decades and can assist by delivering a thorough grounding in media relations and training, developing and delivering key messages and staying smart!