How Do You Manage a Loose Cannon?
You’re a seasoned public relations professional.
You know all about the need to stay on message in the presence of reporters. You create talking points for your clients. Perhaps you even provide them with media training.
So what do you do when your client decides to abandon your talking points and “wing it?” What can you say to the client who constantly undermines your hard work by saying something off-topic, irrelevant, or even harmful to reporters?
Aileen Abella, a Florida-based communications consultant, recently wrote in asking for suggestions about how to handle a client who is a “loose cannon” with the media.
So that’s this week’s question of the week: How do you handle a “loose cannon” client?
Please leave your experiences, best techniques, or worst nightmare stories in the comments section below.
I’ll write up a post later this week excerpting a few of your answers. In the meantime, would you kindly share this post with your networks to help get as much feedback on this question as possible?
Thanks for reading!
Brad, great question! In my opinion, the secret sauce is a combination of messaging and training. Many dislike “messaging” and believe it is sneaky, unnatural or artificial. If it is, then your messaging isn’t good enough. Training, especially media training, gives PR pros the chance to show how bad things happen loose cannons fire at will.
Thanks, Jeff. I agree with you – messaging and training is the special sauce. In the case of a loose cannon, I’d say that unfortunately, sometimes they have to fail miserably and suffer an inevitable media mishap before they finally “get it.”
My favorite answer to this question might be this: Put a collar on ’em and deliver a tiny electrified charge every time they go off message. That should “zap” the off message answers away. 🙂
Thanks for commenting,
IMHO I’d suggest showing a video recording of a mock or even real-life interview featuring that client. Especially if s/he’s never seen and heard him/herself speak on cam before, it might be revealing to know how s/he felt after watching it.
Actually posting this in a hurry. Too juicy to pass up, though. 🙂
Although managing a “loose cannon” client can be a challenge, there are a few tips that might help.
First, I recently wrote about “How to Manage an Ego-Filled Executive Who Says Too Much.” You can find those tips here: https://www.throughlinegroup.com/index.php/2012/07/06/how-to-manage-controlling-executives-who-say-too-much/.
Second, I occasionally create a “scorecard” for the loose cannon. For every on message answer he or she gives, they get a point. For every answer they’re off message, they don’t. At the end of the interview, I’ll tell them how they scored, say 5 of 12 (five “on message answers out of twelve questions). That means there’s a lot of ground for improvement – and I encourage them to compete against themselves during the next interview to improve upon their “score.”
Hope that helps!