No. This isn’t a sexist commentary on the alleged inability of women to keep secrets.
It is about thinking before you speak, and choosing your words with the precision of a surgeon.
Faced with unexpected and unwanted situations, clients too often are inclined to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind — You gotta say something, and you gotta say it now, right?
Only half right. You do have to say something. But it must be thoughtful. It must be calibrated to project the right message and tone. It mustn’t undercut your defenses with an unintended hint of culpability or whiff of uncertainty.
The other half is wrong. It’s rare you must respond in the moment. It’s also unwise, unless you know in advance what will be asked, and your comments are carefully scripted.
Usually you can buy time. The more the better. But don’t take too long, or it looks like you’ve “gone silent.” That makes you seem guilty.
Is an insistent reporter — is there any other kind? — poking a microphone in your face and demanding you answer his questions. Politely say, “Let me check on that, and I’ll get back to you.” Keep your promise.
Is the media is on the phone? Have your assistant screen the calls. Learn why the journalist is calling (he’ll share that), what his specific questions are (he’ll withhold the juiciest and most important), what his deadline is (he’ll always tell you it’s sooner than it really is).
Immediately call your Crisis PR person and lawyer. What should you say? What’s legally permissible? What will have the desired effect for your reputation?
Then get back to the reporter — before his deadline. By what means?
- Phone is more genial, but there’s a danger the journalist will steer the conversation into undesired terrain.
- Email is more formal. That’s good and bad. Good because you have a record of what you said. Bad because a record exists (especially if, in retrospect, you wish you hadn’t said it).
Next time you’re confronted by the media, remember this: What will let you control the conversation and steer it where you want it to go?
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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