Posts Tagged ‘accuracy’

How – and Why – to Fact Check Your PR Writing

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

How – and Why – to Fact Check Your PR Writing Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas Public Relations Media MonitoringAs the tragic story about MH17 broke last week, broadcast news networks (especially those of the 24-hour variety) scrambled for any scoop they could find. In the mad dash to find an eye witness, MSNBC got pranked pretty good when a caller who said he was a sergeant stationed at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine claimed he’d seen a missile hit the plane.

He then made a lewd reference and cursed at the host, Krystal Ball, who didn’t pick up on the rather obvious fact that he was pranking her. Both MSNBC and Krystal Ball come away looking rather poorly; someone manning the phones at MSNBC obviously didn’t bother to verify the man’s story – a simple Internet search would have shown that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is stationed in Kiev, which is more than 200 miles from Hrabrove, the site of the crash. At that distance, he wouldn’t have seen a thing.

Put that whole story next to the study released this week, which shows that journalists live tweeting during the 2012 election acted more as stenographers than reporters, as 60 percent of them just repeated what the candidates said, instead of fact-checking such claims for veracity.

As more and more marketing and public relations professionals are themselves becoming content creators in addition to their long-established role in working with journalists, it’s important to remember that with your organization’s reputation on the line, fact-checking is something we all need to do – not just journalists.

This doesn’t mean you need to employ a fact-checking machine a la The New Yorker, but it does mean that taking a little extra time to double-check that everything is in order can save you or your organization from making a silly but meaningful blunder.

Things that always need to be fact-checked:

  • Names, dates, locations, job titles
  • Quotes – always check that you have not only the words right, but the context as well
  • Numbers and statistics
  • Basic facts – because “facts” aren’t always completely factual

Google is a useful fact-checking tool, but if you’re Googling to find out whether a statistic is correct, make sure that the sites you’re using for verification are themselves reputable, and that you can find the same statistic in more than one place. While Wikipedia can also be useful, keep in mind that pages can be and are frequently changed and updated, so it should not be your independent source of information, especially if you’re doing an online-only fact check.

Email and the telephone are also great tools – if you need to make sure someone actually said what they said, just call. In journalism, fact-checkers won’t read a quote back to the speaker, but in public relations and marketing, there is no such restriction, so if there’s an error, it’s easy to re-work a quote.

Chances are that you won’t be live-tweeting election debates and that your account won’t be held up to as much public scrutiny as a journalist’s, but even if you’re at a conference and life-tweeting a presentation, keep in mind that if the speaker makes an assertion, you tweet it out, and that assertion later turns out to be incorrect, you could come away with a negative perception. You never know when what you tweet will come back to haunt you – just ask Justine Sacco.

Managing Media Interviews

Friday, October 8th, 2010

InterviewLast week, I had the pleasure of joining Southwest Missouri PRSA for their annual professional development day.  The great lineup of speakers included retired Lt. Col. Joseph V. Trahan III, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA.  “Doc Joe,” a self-described Cajun, has conducted hundreds of media training classes over his 30+ years for government agencies, law enforcement, higher education and non-profits.  His background is so extensive that if I went further, it could easily take up more space than this post itself!

Keeping in mind that his seminars are typically 1-2 days, what follows is only a handful of “key” takeaways.

The three C’s of media relations…
According to Doc Joe, the three “C’s” of media relations, especially when responding to the media, are:

  • Control: He says, “If you put a microphone in my face, it’s MINE!”
  • Competence: Clear, honest, simple information. No speculation.
  • Concern: For example,“Mayor Giuliani showed concern on 9/11. For a brief shining moment we were all New Yorkers.”

For any media interview, you must be prepared. No excuses.
Research the reporter’s questions, your own questions, and breakdown the elements of the news. “Be the devil’s advocate,” says Doc Joe, when thinking about what questions may be asked and how the media may respond.  He advises to spend one hour of prep time for every minute of air time. If it’s a 3-7 minute standup, that means up to seven hours of prep time. When developing your responses, be sure to use “command messages” (aka talking points), statements/info that you work into responses that explain position, and be consistent with them.  He also provided 10 examples of “bridging” connector phrases

Take advantage of the off-camera time to meet and greet.
Correct any misinformation.  Provide a starting point (hook).  Be sure to explain any restrictions.  Doc Joe calls these SAPP:

  • Security
  • Accuracy
  • Propriety
  • Policy

 Ready for the Interview? 
Open with a 24-40 second summary – who, what, when, where and what we’re doing about it. Listen, pause, think, then talk, when responding to media. And never repeat a negative question. Remember:

  • Each statement you make should be able to stand alone.
  • “Listen for understanding and comprehension, not to await your turn to speak.” (One of my key takeaways here.)
  • Tell the truth and stick to the facts. Talk only about what you know. 

“Know your audience; visualize them; the reporter is a channel to the audience” ~Dr. Joe Trahan

Non-verbal cues during the interview are extremely important also.  So, look at the reporter, not the camera. Remain calm, but if you “choke,” ask to try it again (if it’s not a live interview, of course).  Credibility and believability are critical for the interview to be a success.

Post-Interview Best Practices
Doc Joe says, after the interview, it’s okay to ask when it will air, but avoid asking for copies – you can get it later from the station or from you media monitoring service.  The only real reason to get back to the reporter is if you owe him answers or if he has bona fide accuracy issues.

How do you manage your media interviews? Do you agree with these points? What would you add? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.