The inside story of ‘off the record’
Should you ever 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.