A good relationship with the media is essential for successful delivery of an ag retailer’s message to the public. Whether interaction with the media is invited or results from an incident at your facility (or even at another facility), like the recent explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. near Waco, TX, your ability to communicate with them effectively can generate positive coverage.
The following guidelines will help you deal with the media during an interview:
- Be prepared: Success with the media depends on preparation. Organize your facts, anticipate questions and plan concise answers. Write down your two or three most important messages in advance.
- Be honest: Get accurate information and be completely honest. Don’t try to fool reporters or the public. If you don’t know an answer, admit it. But offer to provide the answer later.
- Stick to the facts: Stay with the topic at hand. Keep the interview on track by emphasizing the points you want to make.
- Be brief: Answer in quotable statements of 30 seconds or less.
- Respond quickly: Deal with an issue immediately to eliminate misinterpretation and fear. Never dodge questions.
- Avoid confrontation: Stay calm. Don’t argue, lose your composure or confront reporters. If questions are stated inaccurately or combatively, simply correct the remarks in your answer and don’t repeat sensational words used in the question.
- Demonstrate leadership: Let the media know the situation is under control and emphasize what is being done to correct any problems. Offer positive actions and solutions.
- Educate: Explain scientific and technical information carefull. Use plain English, not jargon.
- Understand the media: Be senstive to reporters’ deadlines. Like you, they have a job to do.
Editor’s note: Please feel free to also refer press calls to Kathy Mathers at The Fertilizer Institute (202-515-2703) or Michelle Hummel at the Agricultural Retailers Association (202-595-1712). Those organizations also have released the following information “Fertilizer Talking Points and Facts” and “Crisis Communications Guidelines for Responding to Press Inquiries.”