There is, sadly, such a thing as bad publicity and in the internet age it can take a long time to go away. In his book The Media Training Bible, Brad Phillips has six suggestions for dealing with hostile journalists, without resorting to pushing them under a subway train, House of Cards style.
1. Take it to a neutral party
Firstly, it may not be as bad as you think.
“It’s an age-old truth: The closer you are to a news story, the more likely you will find it flawed,” says Phillips. “Ask neutral parties to read, listen to or watch the story and give you feedback. You may be surprised to find that the message you hoped would get through did.”
2. Talk to the reporter
If you were the original source of the story, it will be much easier for you to talk to the reporter responsible for the story – and to have a constructive conversation. But either way, says Phillips, stay polite and don’t lose your temper.
“Reporters will react better to a discussion about factual errors than a differing opinion, but you’re welcome to make your case if you believe his view lacks perspective. If the reporter got a key fact wrong, you’re entitled to request a correction,” he says.
3. Write a response
“You may have forums to respond, such as a letter to the editor, op-ed or a website’s comments section,” says Phillips. But, he says, don’t make the mistake of reiterating the offending information. “Doing so gives those errors more airtime. Just articulate your view,” he says.
4. Speak to the editor
“If you can’t get anywhere with the reporter, raise your objections with the reporter’s boss. Who knows, you may be the fourth person to complain about the reporter this week,” says Phillips. But, he warns, this is a last resort – creating enemies in the media could turn a difference of opinion into a full blown vendetta!
5. Respond with statements
There may be times when the news organisation in question is simply biased against you and won’t hear your side. In these cases, Phillips says, you can either cut off all access and refuse to talk to them or you can respond to subsequent inquiries with precision.
“I usually recommend the latter, which means sending a short, written statement in response to queries,” advises Phillips. “That brief statement prevents the reporter saying you refused to comment, and gives you more control over the quote.”
“The only time I recommend cutting off access is when you won’t gain anything from speaking to the reporter,” he adds. “Those cases may exist, but they’re rare. Good media management means finding a way to work with journalists—not avoiding them.”
6. Use social media
Finally, says Phillips, remember that the battle isn’t just with the news organisation. Your clients or customers have another way of getting their information about the situation – from you. “Use your company website, blog and corporate social media to continue communicating with your key audiences,” says Phillips.