- Be Realistic: the press is not your PR machinery! It faces time and space limitations. Before you peddle news to journalists, try to think like a journalist. Does the story have a human interest angle? Is it genuinely relevant to the newspaper’s readers? Or is it parochial and irrelevant?
- Be Prepared: make sure you know who the editors and reporters are! You must also only ever give an interview when you are ready – if you need time, ask for the reporter’s deadline, tell him you need to collect information, offer to get back to him at a certain and then make sure you do so. If you upset a journalist, be prepared for the consequences…
- Be Accessible: media relations is about human relations. You should never simply say “no comment” as this suggests you are hiding something. Explain why you cannot comment, discuss general policy instead of specifics and/or switch the topic to something you can say.
- Be Honest: never lie to a journalist. Ever. If you have bad news, admit it and move on to corrective action. Lying will come back to haunt you. Just like Bill “I-did-not-have-sexual-relations-with-that-woman” Clinton.
- Be Quotable: if you are dull journalists will not come back to talk to you again. Make your quotes memorable. Put your issues into plain English in a way that connects with voters. Rather than giving an unmemorable quote because you are in a hurry, delay putting out your message so that it is properly crafted.
One of the most misunderstood areas of campaigning is what is known as “opposition research”. Many people think that this means digging for dirt on your opponent and throwing it at him or her (or, if you are supposedly sophisticated, having others throw it on your behalf). That is not, however, what opposition research entails at all.
It is not negative campaigning. It has been described as “the interpretation of publicly verifiable documents, not a collection of unverifiable innuendoes and rumours”. It is a matter of finding out as much about your opponent as your opponent probably already knows about you. Continue reading