|You see! It was a real deal!|
These crazy things were so prevalent, when someone would ask me a question there was no way I could possibly know the answer to, I would frequently respond, "What the heck do I look like? The Shell Answer Man?"
As a PIO, there are many time when we believe that we have to be as smart as the Shell Answer Man and know everything about every topic. Unfortunately, that gut reaction can be totally wrong. There are many things that we don't know about personally. Some questions I have heard throughout the years include:
- How long is the incubation period for Eastern Equine Encephalitis?
- When was the last time this area flooded?
- How many cubic yards of concrete will be needed to finish this project?
- What were the findings of the last engineering study done on this bridge?
First, I can try to become an instant expert on the topic. And, yeah, in about an hour with some frantic research, I can get together a quick fact sheet that can give the basics. But, once the reporter wants to go into more detail, I am sunk.
Or, probably a much more intelligent response would be to find a subject matter expert and have him or her answer the questions. This works so much better in many instances because the subject matter expert typically has years of study and experience with the topic, and can draw upon that knowledge to round out the topic.
|News conference at Emory University after Ebola patient Kent Brantly was released after he was disease free|
It's a mind trick that our brain plays with us called the appeal to authority. If someone looks the part, the viewer's brain tends to more readily accept the information as factual. While this can lead to logical fallacies, it does help guide the messaging you are providing to help reinforce the message.
As you might guess, it's important to coach the subject matter expert on how to craft soundbites, handle tough questions and stick to approved, verified information.
If you can do that, you will have thousands of miles of happy media relations!
Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida