Friday, December 19, 2008

A sound bite in time...

...can save nine, as my gran would have said if she'd been a PR expert. However, you may have very little time to react and craft a perfect message when a reporter calls. It is more important to be responsive to the media than to spend hours deciding the best possible response. If you don't supply a statement or quote quickly, someone else will, and they may be a rival, or someone with a grudge against your organisation. You need to establish yourself, very quickly, as a prime source of information that the media can approach to for a viewpoint.

If a journalist tells you that they need a response by eleven o'clock in the morning, you need to supply it by five to eleven, not ten past eleven. A few minutes late can mean that your brilliant quote may never be heard. Of course, you can sometimes prepare your quote in advance, such as when a report is due for publication, and you know you will be asked to comment. In the apparent "heat of the moment" you can then deliver your carefully crafted message.

The best way to deal with a sudden media request is to have a list of agreed "position statements" in the hands of anyone who might be confronted by a camera or microphone. Update these statements regularly - say every three months - and your spokespeople will be able to deal with most issues without having to call a meeting first. When I was a media spokesman for a large organisation, I could recite any one of ten position statements on various issues, and could adapt them for any situation. That's what you need to do too, otherwise you could be caught out.

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