Sensitive Issue Media ContactFrom time to time, and issue may arise that draws media attention. When these are good, theycan be very, very good. When they are bad, they can be awful. In any case, appropriate handlingof the media is important.Good situations such as: A proud delayed entry person who wants all to know that he or she is now a future sailor, or A recruiter who went above and beyond the call to do something in the community, or A presentation about the Navy’s role in the War of 1812 that was well received at the high schoolare all easy things to deal with.Bad situations such as: An accusation of impropriety by a recruiter, or An accident with a government vehicle, or A terrorist threat, or An unqualified candidate who wants to make a public stink about a rejectionare all much more difficult to deal with.The problem is that early in the media contact, you won’t be able to tell whether the situationbeing addressed is good or bad. Nevertheless, you are the face of the Navy where you arelocated, so what you do will indelibly affect public perception of both you and the Navy.Here are some guidelines for dealing with the media, particularly regarding sensitive situations.RULE #1 – SMILE. No matter whether the expose reporter is at the NRS door with the camerasrolling and the microphone on, or it is a faceless contact over the telephone, find a way to smile.This simple action helps to change your demeanor, and takes the sting out of anything you mightsay. It is hard to get a mean looking photo of someone who is smiling. It also is difficult to get aderogatory sound bite from someone who has a smile on his or her face.RULE #2 – BE CORDIAL. If you can give a reporter information that you already know iscorrect, and that the Navy has already made public, by all means do so. That’s what helps makethe media allies in our work to recruit qualified people into the Navy. If the request is outsidethose boundaries, however, you can actually give a reporter no information at all and still makethem feel good about the conversation he/she had with you. The words “no comment” don’twork very well, but you can retain cooperative feelings by saying things such as: “I’m not in a position of offer a comment on that, but I will put you in touch with someone who might be able to help,” or “I don’t know if I am able to give you the right answer regarding that, but I will be happy to call you back once I have it,” or
“That is a policy issue that I am not at liberty to answer. Let me have someone get back to you on that,” or “You are asking for a personal opinion from someone who is wearing a Navy uniform. I simply cannot do that.”RULE #3 – STAY IN YOUR SWIM LANE. As soon as you feel that questions being asked willlead you to answers that either call for a policy statement or an opinion, find a way to cordiallydismiss the conversation. You don’t need to be trapped into saying things that can jeopardize youjob. That is left to someone in a higher pay grade, or someone whose job it is to parry suchrequests – your public affairs officer.RULE #4 – GATHER INFORMATION. Changing the mode of the conversation to one whereyou are gathering information from the reporter does two things: First, it helps to assure thereporters that we think enough of them to make sure that the right Navy people will work withthem to get them what they need (and we will). Second, it helps to draw your conversation to aconclusion.RULE #5 -- SET THE GROUND RULES. In a time period when cell phone cameras, instanttext messages and social network connections make spying and telling infinitely possible, it isinteresting to note that professional journalists are still true to their word. So are we true to ours.Arresting the immediate hounding of the media can often be accomplished by saying "Imconfident that we can accommodate your needs for a story and met your deadline, but first weneed to come to an agreement regarding the topics we will be discussing, and where we can andcannot go within those topical areas."NOTE: The above rule works for media professionals, but many bloggers and social networkerstoday do not have the same scruples. Be aware of that and live and act each moment of every dayas if someone were watching. It is the right way, the professional way, the Navy way.RULE #6 – GET BACK IN TOUCH. This is all about proper relationship building with themedia. For them to help serve us instead of slam us, they need to trust us. If you promise to getback to them, do so.To help make this entire process more manageable, we have prepared this media checklist thatcan be helpful in making sure that this is done well and done right. (See next Page)
Media Query Checklist1. Get the name and organization of the person calling with the query/request.2. Ask reporter for direction/angle of story. Ask if story is focused on just Navy or all services, if applicable.3. Ask reporter to send you an email recapping their query/request, to include any pertinent details (i.e., direction of story, background such as why they want to do this specific story, etc), deadline and “specific” questions they would like answered.4. Ask reporter for deadline. It is ok to inform reporter if deadline is not realistic, but be fair.5. Do not answer any questions until after you receive the specific questions from the reporter, this will give you time to prepare the proper responses. Remember, nothing is “off the record.”6. Do some research (internet, local paper, etc.) to see what the reporter has done in the past, as it will give you an idea of their style and how they will handle a military story or stories related to recruiting.7. If it is a benign/simple, local query, inform your chain of command and handle at that level. If it is a national or potential to be national news, a sensitive issue or potential bad news story, inform your chain of command and notify CNRC PAO for guidance.8. If the reporter wants to do a live interview, make sure to get questions in advance. Make sure that the person that you selected for the interview is squared away, well-prepared, and has complete understanding of the subject matter. Provide media training and talking points, remind them to stay in their lane and to not comment on matters beyond their expertise.