You’ve heard the term, and likely you’ve used it more than you should have. Going “off the record” is a term that we’d like to think provides a blanket of protection on the next words to be said. Yet, we all know the sad truth of the matter is that you are never really off the record and in this post we’ll explain why.
A reporter is a reporter first
A reporter has a job to do, and that job is to get the real story. Your polished, practiced presentation might be hot off the PR department’s printer, but you’ve casually assumed you could utter “can I go off the record” and add your personal commentary to the issue. This mindset is not only foolish it could be disastrous. Reporters are trained in getting the information they need from their interviewees. Unless you are a media professional, you are assuming too much and risking even more when your approach to an interview is cavalier. The reporter’s friendly disposition, although authentic, does not mean you and the reporter are friends. He or she has a job to do, and getting to the real story is the aim. Be authentic and friendly…yet guarded.
The interview is never over
The official interview is over, the lights have turned off and now the reporter’s smile and seeming small talk conversation carries a more casual tone. “So tell me what you really think about it” the reporter calmly inquires as your defenses have been withdrawn. This old media trick has lasted the test of time. But, remember that the interview is never over. As soon as you walk into the room, or pick up the phone, you must be “on” for the media. And you certainly never go “off” until you’ve left the building, or hung up the phone. Every word that comes out of your mouth in the presence of that reporter could be used for the sound bite that ends your career. Be aware and be on before and after the “official” interview begins.
Reporters are everywhere
You might think that you’re OK to chat about the crisis at the office when you’re out to dinner with a good friend. Well in the days of social media, and our well connected society, you could be sitting in earshot of a reporter who is capturing tomorrow’s headlines. Terri Ammerman was in an airport lounge with a colleague who was a reporter. Her friend left to get a refreshment and returned almost ten minutes later. She asked him what took so long, and the response was surprising. In the short path to the bar area, he overheard a national political figure airing details of an unfolding scandal on his cell phone. Now say what you will about privacy, but the information heard in that call was headline material, and not in a good way. The point of this story is if you’re in public, you must be on the record because you never know who you may be sitting next to. Reporters are everywhere.
Ready to be on the record?
The value of proper media training is invaluable to companies in the national spotlight. The Ammerman Experience has been preparing people for media interviews for over 40 years. Contact us today to discuss how The Ammerman Experience can help you stay on the record. Call us at 281-240-2026 or visit us at www.ammermanexperience.com.