The Reporters Are Coming! (Media Training) With John Verrico, FCN Board of Directors - March 2012


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Presentation by John Verrico, sponsored by the FCN and NAGC, March 19, 2012

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  • The first rule in the professional journalist’s code of ethicsis, “Test the accuracy of information from all sourcesand exercise care to avoid inadvertent error” (Society ofProfessional Journalists, 1996). The second part of thatethic should put spokespersons at ease: “Deliberatedistortion is never permissible.”
  • Case studiesCalvert IndependentDrunk boatersTaser braceletsHawaii
  • Be ResponsiveMeet DeadlinesBe ProactiveGive info to press before they ask for itIf you wait for them to come to you, chances are they have already made up their mind about the issueBe forthrightLet media know they can trust you for correct & complete informationKnow who their audience is
  • After coordinating an interview in January between one of our SMEs and a reporter I had never worked with before, I was pleasantly surprised to see the reporter blog about his interaction with us.
  • This is our image. Don’t ‘SPIN’!That’s what the media and the public expect.
  • The Reporters Are Coming! (Media Training) With John Verrico, FCN Board of Directors - March 2012

    1. 1. A Training Event from the &March 19, 2012
    2. 2. The ReportersAre Coming! The ReportersAre Coming! John S. Verrico Chief of Media Relations U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate& Director of Professional Development, National Association of Government Communicators
    4. 4. Key Findings Pre-approval – 78% Block interviews – 68% Re-Routing requests – 67% Monitoring – nearly 80% Circumvent PAOs – 70% Censorship – 70% Public hurt – 85% Positive relationships – 70% Response time: only 4% said “quickly”
    5. 5. Open Comments 44% PAOs control too much information 22% PAOs fail to furnish actual information “PAOs tend to make up information. You can never trust the information they provide. They make our jobs almost impossible and they treat journalists with barely any professionalism.” “They act as gatekeepers. And they are very rarely completely helpful or forthcoming.” “Most PIOs are great. But what can you do about the duds or jerks?”
    6. 6. Key Topics Media basics Relationships Who speaks? Preparing for an interview Interview Tips Roles Final thoughts
    7. 7. Communication options Direct communications – Website – Publications – Public meetings – Public speaking – Exhibits Via Media – Interviews – Press events – Press conference Media Basics
    8. 8. Why deal with reporters?  Media can be your best friend – Not necessarily out to get you – Required by law to be truthful  Can help you reach your public  Will get info from somewhere  Ensure your side of story is told Media Basics
    9. 9. Understanding Media Report to public in timely manner Deadline driven Obligated to audience Not necessarily investigative Required by law to be truthful Guided by professional ethics Media Basics
    10. 10.  Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible. Media Basics
    11. 11. Plight of the Journalist  Impact of new media  Reduced revenue  Staff reductions  Fewer specialists  Overworked general assignment Media Basics
    12. 12. Specialized Press / Beat Reporters  Science & health writers  On-Staff reporters  Freelance market  Generalists lack familiarity Media Basics
    13. 13. The Importance of Relationships Mutual Trust Mutual Respect Ensures fairness in coverage Relationships
    14. 14. Relationship Building Be Responsive  Meet deadlines Be Proactive  Give info to press before they ask for it Be forthright & honest Understand their needs  Know who their audience is Relationships
    15. 15. Example From a Reporter’s BlogIn reporting for the article, I spoke with Matt Clark, directorof university programs at the Science and TechnologyDirectorate, and John Verrico, spokesman for S&T.Government employees, at DHS and elsewhere, can bedifficult to interview – many are tight-lipped when speakingwith the press. Not so with Clark and Verrico. They offereda wealth of knowledge and insight. Their readiness tospeak openly … was impressive and was by far the mostenlightening interview I have conducted with federalemployees. Kudos to both men for being so helpful andforthcoming with details about the important work they aredoing. Relationships
    16. 16. Juggling conflicts  Transparency  Security  Partnering  Favoritism Relationships
    17. 17. Establish Credibility You MUST appear to be trustworthy You MUST be perceived as a reliable source of information You MUST have perceived value  your info seen as important or newsworthy Relationships
    18. 18. What We Expect in Return Reporter MUST use information accurately Reporter MUST not violate agreements / ground rules Reporter MUST not intentionally misquote or distort context Relationships
    19. 19. Adding Value Take time to educate Find out what reporter already knows Who else has reporter interviewed? Respond early or on time – or get ahead of queries and proactively reach out Limit use of pre-fab statements Connect reporter with right SMEs Relationships
    20. 20. National Credibility Index 1 Supreme Court Justice 2 Teacher 3 National Expert PRSA study 4 Member of Armed Forces 6 Ordinary Citizen 7 Local Religious Leader 8 Local Ranking Military Officer 12 Network TV anchor 13 Governor 15 Local reporter 17 Locally elected council member 18 U.S. Senator 20 Mayor of a large city 21 Head of a State Department/Agency 22 Head of a Local Department/Agency 32 U.S. President 33 Member of President’s Cabinet 39 Famous Athlete 42 Public Relations Specialist 43 Famous Entertainer 44 Talk Show Host Who Speaks?
    21. 21. “Here are your controversial remarks, spin doctored.”
    22. 22. Who should speak? Human interest -- one of the staff – Daily implementation; human interest features Technical focus – Subject Expert – Equipment, systems, capabilities, day-to-day ops, background, crisis response Strategic focus -- the ‘Boss’ – Mission, organizational priorities, outlook, crisis resolution Who Speaks?
    23. 23. The RIGHT Spokesperson Knowledge of topic Understanding of overall objectives Ability to communicate Confidence of top management Desire to do the interview Overall presentation style Who Speaks?
    24. 24. Other Factors Anxiety Level of authority Credibility factor Ability to connect with audience Who Speaks?
    25. 25. What You Should Know Logistics of interview Type of story What reporter wants What reporter already knows Background on reporter Photography or video? Suggested main messages Interview techniques Murder Board Preparation
    26. 26. Murder Board One-on-one or press conference style Practice response to anticipated questions. Anticipate reporter’s reaction. Anticipate follow-on questions. Spokesman should not appear rehearsed. Preparation
    27. 27. Interview Techniques Set ground rules (on-the-record or background) before interview Relaxed or formal, etc Listen to entire question Think before responding 7-12 word sound bites Speak to reporter, not camera Body language Communicate competence Interview
    28. 28. Communicate Competence Stick to facts Never speculate Stay within official capacity Be assertive – not aggressive DO NOT make promises you can’t keep Always tell the truth, even if negative It’s okay to say “I don’t know” NEVER LIE Interview
    29. 29. More Competence Tips Avoid written speeches Simplify language & avoid acronyms Organizational logic (3 main points) Appropriate attire Voice tone & eye contact Avoid distracting habits & crutches Interview
    30. 30. We all listen to...WII-FM Interview
    31. 31. It’s YOUR Interview! What do YOU want to get out of it? What is your take-home message? Determine your 3 main points (max) Maintain focus Stay calm & controlled SAPP Interview
    32. 32. Remember SAPP Security “I knew it was Accuracy illegal. I just didnt think it Privacy was that bad.” Propriety “... her Secret Service code name is … <yes, he actually said it!> ” Interview
    33. 33. “It was like SpecialOlympics or something.” "Sometimes something comes out of your mouth and you say Oops, I wish I wouldnt have said that. Ive had many of those." Interview
    34. 34. “I remember landing under sniper fire. … we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”“… for the first time in twelve- or-so years I misspoke.” “I made a mistake. … That happens. Im human. For some people thats a revelation.” Interview
    35. 35. What’s inthe Background? Interview
    36. 36. How will you react? Interview
    37. 37. Role of the PAO Distribute news  Serve as primary source of news Advise leadership on communications  Conduct media training Develop relationships with media  Facilitate interviews  Coordinate media events  Respond to queries in timely manner  Issue press releases Monitor news“Maximum disclosure – minimum delay” Roles
    38. 38. NOT the Role of the PAO Censor information Spin the message Fabricate information Control the media Block access to information Roles
    39. 39. Typical Government ActivelyPublic Affairs Office promote stories Press events Federal, State, Respond to Local & Tribal media queries Media Gov’t Media* Press releases, fact sheets, press kits, Liaison & Coordinate PAGIndustry Coordination interviews Media Training Community * Frequently coordinated Stakeholders with higher authority Newsletters Presentations Reports Review for release Tech Papers Images Web content Video Roles
    40. 40. Stakeholder audiences End-users – people who use our services  General public  Specific user communities  Special interest groups Partners – people our agency works with  Government agencies  Academia  Industry Legislators – people who decide our fate/funding Performers – contracted entities Employees – our own people Roles
    41. 41. Another look at SPJ Allegations Pre-approval Block interviews Re-Routing requests Monitoring Circumvent PAOs Censorship Public hurt Positive relationships Response time Roles
    42. 42. Final Thoughts We can build positive relationships with media We can add value to PAO’s role
    43. 43. Contact info John S. Verrico 202-254-2385 202-527-3625
    44. 44. Headquarters PA Focus Agency’s political image Immediate, emergent news Crisis du jour  Whack-a-Mole Strategic messaging Media contacts are usually brief Mostly issue prepared statements Roles
    45. 45. Component-level PA Focus Stakeholder engagement Media education on complex issues Strategic communication Targeted outreach Feature articles rather than breaking news Demonstrations & in-depth interviews Roles