Taking the Opportunity and Making the Most of It
1. Be Accessible: Accessibility is not just answering questions. It means being trained, understanding the media's needs and requirements and being able to provide accurate, reliable information that reflects command policy and message points on a given subject. Be sure you can be reached. Avoiding the media does not help us tell our story and a story will run with or without your comments. This can often make the story even more non-factual or damaging.
2. Be Time Conscious: Always return calls from a reporter or the Corporate Communications Office promptly. The last thing you want is for a reporter to put a story to bed (sent to print or to air) without the Corps' viewpoint. Most journalists are on daily deadlines. If you are handling queries from the field without the benefit of Corporate Communications support, return journalists’ phone calls quickly – even if it’s to say, “let’s talk later.”
Do not 'dodge' a call from the Corporate Communications Office or a reporter.
Remember, the more time a reporter has to work on a story, the more accurate it may be.
3. Be Honest: Always tell the truth and be forthright. If you lose credibility with a reporter, you are no help to the reporter or to the Corps. Lost credibility is difficult to regain. Credibility built before the media calls is priceless. Helping a reporter find other reliable sources of information, like officials, sponsors, etc., even those that don't agree with the Corps, is a good way to gain credibility.
4. Be Knowledgeable: Know your topic. Know your message points. Make the reporter feel like they called the right person. They want the expert. If you aren't it, get the expert for them. But don't be afraid to say, "I don't know, I will get you the information and a point-of-contact on that issue."
5. Know Your Place: Remember that you represent the Corps, not yourself. Your personal opinions should never be discussed with a reporter. If you feel compelled to provide your personal opinion, or inadvertently do so, ensure you clearly state that it is YOUR personal opinion, not the opinion of the Corps. Everything you say must reflect command policy, ethics and values.
6. Just remember C-A-R-E (Candor, Accessibility, Response and Ethics).