Four Things to Tell Your Staff On Interview Days

Last week, I wrote an article about a tricky journalistic tactic.
I described a situation in which reporters keep their cameras rolling—after you’ve completed your “official” interview—in the hopes of capturing a less scripted moment from you.
A couple of readers wrote in and added a point to that story that I’ve never thought to make on this blog before.

John Barnett wrote:

“While 99.9% of the reporters I’ve work with are great folks, there are going to be ones with agendas, and they won’t hesitate to use roaming around for b-roll phase to find spur-of-the-moment interviews. Had a “perfect storm” event occur once where the Boss assigned an inexperienced escort to a media team with an agenda who wound up interviewing the MOST disgruntled employee in the place.
Yeah, that one left a mark.”

 
Art Aiello added:

“I’ve found that camerapersons can be a little like mice–they disappear into little nooks and crannies looking for a shot and are very hard to find and keep track of. When I escort the media through our facility, I try to do it with one other person, so that if one needs to accompany the cameraperson another can stay with the reporter(s).”

 
John and Art are absolutely right. It’s not enough to do everything right as a spokesperson. If the journalists who come to interview you wander down the hallways of your office without an escort and make casual conversation with the wrong person, you could end up with a bruising news story.
Still, I can think of an obvious complication. Let’s say you have an escort assigned to the reporter and each member of the crew. They need to use the restroom or walk to their van to get a piece of equipment. You escort them—but on their walk, they spot an employee and say, “Hey, can I ask you a quick question?”
You have a choice: You can tell the reporter that the employee they’ve stopped isn’t authorized to speak, but that obstructionism could end up in the news story. Or, alternatively, you can prepare your staff for that moment.
On days that a reporter is coming to your place of business, you might consider:

  1. 1. Sending an email to staff reminding them of your media policy. In some cases, that might mean that only authorized spokespersons have the authority to speak to the press, meaning they say, “I’m sorry, I’m not the best person to answer that question,” and keep walking.
  2. 2. Asking your staff to remove any confidential or sensitive documents from their desks. You might even ask them to do a little housekeeping to leave a neat appearance.
  3. 3. Briefing staff with your key messages so they know what the “company line” is in case they are allowed to respond.
  4. 4. Asking them to contact you if they see a member of the crew or a reporter roaming the hallways without an escort.

I’d like to hear from you on this one. How have you handled this situation? What tips would you offer other PR representatives who find themselves dealing with a similar circumstance?