The inside story of ‘off the record’

Should you evoff the record, media relationser go off the record?

This is a question PR pros and journalists can debate for hours.

Personally, I don’t recommend a client ever go off the record. There is just too much room for misunderstanding.

Some people will toss off a comment and then add: “By the way, that’s off the record.”

Guess what – it’s too late! You didn’t clearly outline the rules of the interview, and you haven’t given the reporter a chance to agree to the terms.

If there are some subjects that you are not willing to address during an interview, you need to outline them – and get the reporter to agree – before you sit down with them.

Keep it simple

The easiest way to stay out of trouble is to consider that anything you say during an interview is on the record. You’ll be less likely to let some important fact slip – and you’ll take the interview more seriously.

But what if your client has a good relationship with a reporter? The answer is still no. Unless the person has been a journalist or a PR pro, he or she doesn’t really understand how a reporter thinks.

Many people may believe they are friends with a reporter once they’ve been interviewed a few times, and the interviews have gone well – but you cannot confuse a professional relationship with a friendship.

If you let slip a newsy tidbit that you shouldn’t have, you have only yourself to blame. A journalist has a job to do, and he or she is going to do it. You cannot fault them for that.

That’s why clients need a seasoned PR professional to vet interview requests, provide media training and guide them through the interview process. Many of us are former journalists who understand the rules of engagement, respect reporters and can help clients avoid potential pitfalls.

And that’s on the record.

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PR Tip

How to Craft a Successful TV pitch

Always remember that, when pitching the media, it’s important to consider what they want.

And what does TV news want most of all? Visuals, and lots of them.

Today’s audiences like action, and lots of it. With the advent of social media, attention spans are dwindling by the second. In order to grab and keep viewers, you have to keep offering information that is interesting and relevant.

No media outlet wants to air a static interview where you see only talking heads. Think about B-roll, background video that you can provide to help illustrate your story. Consider using statistics to create a graphic. Offer before and after photos, provide logos of your business, write bullet points that can be superimposed, or “supered,” onscreen, give them your web address, etc.

Most important, remember it’s not all about what you want. To successfully pitch a topic, consider what audiences want, and you’ll likely get the chance to tell your story.

What Sue’s Clients Say

Sue has an extraordinary ability to connect with the media. She is gifted at finding angles that appeal to news directors and reporters and is meticulous in preparing her guests for interviews. Sue worked with Stillwaters Cancer Support Services to promote our annual Hospital Food Fight fundraiser. Not only did she secure a slot for us on The Morning Blend, our target audience, but she walked us through every aspect of the interview.

Immediately after the show aired, registrations and calls were coming in. We got rave reviews for our interview skills on the show, and it was all because of Sue’s expert coaching. She also helped promote the interview and the event via social media. I can’t recommend her highly enough - her media connections, media training, writing and editing are stellar.

Theresa Reagan, Executive Director, Stillwaters Cancer Support Services, Waukesha, Wis.