Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Triple A

When it comes to telling your story to the media, there are really only two schools of thought. The first one involves getting out in front of the story, knowing your stuff and doing the best job you possibly can. Is it scary? You bet. There are many times, especially during controversial stories, where I would much rather be anywhere else but in front of the camera. But, sometimes, you just gotta do what you just gotta do and - as Shakespeare said so eloquently in Hamlet - suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

This is one way to accommodate a media request...
The other approach is to put your head in the sand and avoid the reporters altogether. And, in the short run, it's an awesome technique. The only problem is that it's only good for the short term. The really short term. Before you know it, the reporters will be knocking on your door, camping out in your lobby, making public requests for your schedule and meeting you at your very important lunch appointment, waiting by your home's front door... yeah... and you will look shifty, evasive and - believe me - the reporter will spare no eloquence in describing his or her Herculean efforts to wrest a comment from your uncooperative lips.

The other technique that the reporters will employ was taught to me by my good friend and mentor Bill Wade. The reporters - if pressed by their deadlines - will simply seek out Triple A.

Not THAT kind of Triple A
No, not the automobile club which rescues stranded motorists from roadsides the country over. Nor are they looking for anti-aircraft artillery which they will use to shoot down bombers conducting their raids.

No, the Triple A that Bill mentioned stands for something that should strike terror into the heart of any seasoned PIO -

  • Ask
  • Any
  • A ... authority. Yeah, that's right. Bill had a more colorful term for this A, but I'll use the one I teach about when I instruct. 

What this means is that the reporters are going to look for someone who will be eager to speak with the reporters - and, believe me, there will be TONS of people who will be willing to do that. Disgruntled former or current employees? Yup. Ten-minute experts? You betcha. Maybe just some interesting people who are just looking to get their big break to be on the nightly news. Folks like these (Needless to say, some of the language is a little salty. Like cured, dried country ham kind of salty. Listen with earbuds in. Seriously) :

Now, as uncomfortable as you might be in front of the camera, who would you rather have telling your organization's side of the story? You or someone familiar with your organization's roles and responsibilities, or the luck of the draw?  If it was me, I'd much prefer to be out in front of something like this than totally blindsided when I turned on the evening news - and called on my boss's carpet the next morning.

So, while it may be tempting to circle the wagons, retreat and hope the story goes away, fight the urge and get out in front of the issue. Trust me, it will be a whole lot more comfortable.

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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