News / Blog

Crisis and the press: 4 tips for campaign operatives

A campaign staffer bursting into your office Monday morning waving a newspaper is probably one of the worst things short of losing the race a campaign manager or candidate could experience. Here are a few practical tips on how to work with the press.

1. Respond immediately to press inquiries.

Your campaign spokesperson should work closely with the media and respond to them as quickly as possible. This kind of promptness, professionalism and consideration builds trust and respect with those in news media. Being in regular contact with reporters — while not a guarantee — allows you to respond swiftly to reporters’ questions and potentially dispel any allegations that arise while on the campaign trail. If you don’t respond quickly, reporters with deadlines may go elsewhere for information or exclude your side of the story altogether.

2. Find your allies.

By interacting regularly with the media, you can identify those who will represent the facts and those who are always willing to feature you in some way, whether on a radio show or in an article. Don’t give them special treatment but make sure they know you appreciate them and their straight-shooting reputation. These kinds of reporters will be your ready microphone when you face a crisis.

3. Reporters aren’t your best friend but they’re not necessarily your enemy either.

Your natural distrust of the media is well-founded — not because it is guaranteed to be untrustworthy but because the media is not in it for you. Remember, if you make a mistake and commit a media blunder, don’t expect your relationships with reporters to save the story from coming out. Reporters are paid to tell the story. Building trust will help allow for important discussion during your crisis and may even help you with the story. A reporter that knows you, your campaign and your motives is less likely to throw you under the bus at the first verbal miscue — and might even take your side on an issue — but don’t rely on them to cover for your stupidity. It’s not personal; it’s reporting.

4. Stand in their shoes.

In this media game, it is crucial to consider how you appear to the media. When something you don’t like gets out to the press, don’t assume it was a deliberate attack on you or your campaign. They aren’t being sneaky. They are doing their job. You must put yourself in their shoes. If you do this, you will soon realize that the media has absolutely no reason not to publish whatever they find on you. As a matter of fact, they have every reason to publish it. Putting yourself in their position also gives you a different look at your campaign. This may provide new insight into ways you can improve your messaging or your campaign. If nothing else, it will give you a better idea as to what the media is looking for and how you can go about tipping them off to newsworthy events or opinions in the future.