So, you’ve been speaking at a news briefing or public gathering and as the event ends, a reporter approaches to ask questions about a topic you don’t want to discuss. What do you do?
First, here’s what you don’t do. You don’t get angry, call the reporter rude, and threatened to call the general manager of her TV station. That’s what Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner did when local reporter Amy Davis asked him about rising consumer water bills, an issue that has many Houston residents up in arms. Check out the encounter in this clip.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Yes, from the viewpoint of a public official or anyone who has just finished an event, a reporter can seem annoying. But you’ve got to keep your game face on and deal with the situation calmly. Turner clearly failed at that. As a longtime public official, he should know the media may ask any question at any time and the mayor should be prepared to deal with it.
Now, that doesn’t mean Turner was obligated to answer any question from Davis at that very moment. But he needed to address the question calmly by saying something like, “I’m not going to speak to that now, because my focus today is on this event.” He could have then delivered a key message about the event and then moved on to any other reporters who had questions. That wouldn’t have satisfied Davis, but that’s not Turner’s job.
By continuing to berate Davis, even after she walked away, Turner appeared petulant and immature. And he probably elevated the water bill issue to an even higher level.
Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t lose your cool in front of reporters. Stay calm, stay cordial, and you will get through even uncomfortable moments with the media.