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1.) If you avoid the press, they’ll avoid you…or worse, roast you like a marshmallow. Don’t duck the press. Learn to work with them. They’ll never be your “friend”…but if you treat them professionally, many will be friendly.
2.) It’s OK to take them to breakfast or lunch. Get to know them…and let them get to know you in a setting other than a press conference.
3.) There’s no such thing as “off the record.” If you don’t ever want to see it in print…don’t say it.
4.) Be accessible. Reporters are on deadlines. If you cannot be reached in a timely manner, they’ll just find someone else to quote. Return reporters’ phone calls promptly.
5.) Be candid. Reporters are used to being “spun.” But they don’t like it. Give it to them straight…and you’re much more likely to be interviewed in the future.
6.) Never pick a fight with someone who buys paper by the ton and ink by the barrel (or bandwidth by the gigabyte). If you have a problem with a reporter, try to work it out PRIVATELY between yourselves. Only if your credibility is at stake and you can’t resolve the matter directly with the reporter should you go to his or her boss. And only as a last resort should you “go nuclear” and criticize the paper or media outlet publicly.
7.) “No comment” is an acceptable answer. Reporters are free to ask you any question they like. That doesn’t mean you have to answer it.
8.) Be yourself. Political reporters have generally been doing their jobs for a LONG time. They can smell a phony a mile away.
9.) Never lie to a reporter. You can lose your mind…and some reporters will still give you a pass. But once you lose your credibility, you can never get it back.
10.) If you’re a candidate, be prepared to answer in 30 seconds or less why you’re running for office.
11.) If you want your campaign to be taken seriously, then present a serious evaluation of your chances for winning. A Republican candidate with no money, living in a Democrat district, and running against a cash-flush incumbent, who simply says, “I’m going to win” without being able to demonstrate HOW will not be taken seriously by the press.
12.) Read the papers that you want to cover you and your campaign.
Prof. Chuck Muth, PhD