The „C“ policy in media communication

publication date 01.04.2010

Communication with media has its rules and methods

Things that look complex can really be very simple - or, indeed, vice versa. Communication with the media is the sort of situation where both the cases may appear. In order to make it really acceptable, you can help yourselves by applying a plain set of principles.

Fundamental mistakes in communication with journalists

There are two mistakes generally made by management folks and people from the political ranks as well when communicating with the media and journalists. The first of them: elemental underrating of the situation. It manifests itself in such a way as we think communication with a journalist is actually the same as when exchanging information with our client or business partner. This foolish notion nearly always results in misunderstanding, cultural collision and, ultimately, adverse references to a company or organizations in the media. 

The second mistake, commonly made by less experienced people in particular, is overrating the situation. Staying in the TV studio and also a harmless interview over a cup of coffee both represent  stressful situations when being experienced for the first time. Stage fever, lack of concentration, or, contrary to that, overconcentration, bring about negative behaviour with undesirable consequences. And despite of the fact real master-journalists can relieve their informants of these states of mind, they are everything but good.  While communicating with the media, there are also situations when even a very well-prepared person, who neither overrates nor underrates the circumstances, is getting into a complicated position, perhaps due to an inapt talking point, or just because they are simply interviewed by a less suitable medium.  Backing out of such a situation, for example by saying „I am quitting“, may not always be an option, so it is advisable to find the fitting way how to prevent wrong communication, to eliminate the risk of wrong interpretation of ideas by the interviewing journalist and to steel yourselves against unwanted implications of a ready-to-be-published text, reportage or interview.   The method is called the „C policy“ and is easy to remember, which is key when preparing for communication with a particular medium. Let us have a look at it now.

1C - Cooperation

Cooperation is our option when the medium or the journalist we are communicating with is favourably disposed towards us. The objective here is to do our best to meet their demands while setting ourselves a clear limit as to what can and what cannot be communicated. The journalist should not have a detailed knowledge of the existence of such a limit, and unless their questions have led them to be aware of it, they should feel you are being obliging and open to a maximum degree. 

2C - Consistent concentration

It is not an entire strategy, just one fragment of the same. While communicating with a medium that is not favourably disposed, or, if we want to divert attention away from a negative subject which has to do with us, we choose a different subject, one we view as positive, and stick to it. We keep trying to focus the interview on the subject of our choice, never letting ourselves be led away from it. Having a sufficient wordpower is a higly important condition of success here, for the journalist quickly detects they are being told the same thing over and over again; the repetition is particularly unpleasant with interviews that are broadcast by audio-visual media. This is why we are supposed to be able to deliver what is relevant to us in many different ways.  

3C - Conservatism, correctness, consistency

We apply this policy when involved in communicating with the medium that we do not feel comfortable with and that can potentially create problems, even though it is not outright confrontational. The strategy is particularly recommended to politicians who are about to give an interview in which „they do not know what they are in for“. Yet it can be used by anybody, especially if they are not sure of the interview´s real purpose, or whether the medium is genuinely interested.  


Conservatism signifies the respondent will say nothing that is in sharp contrast with either their own beliefs and their own political party line or the beliefs and the line of the particular medium to which they are giving an interview. Being conservative will prevent them from coming to loggerheads with the medium or their own colleagues or their followers. If they, owing to a projective question or a question of leading character, get into an internal strife, we suggest they refuse answering such a question with a reference to the fact. 


Correctness signifies that: 

  1. In the course of the interview, neither expressions nor modes of communication will be used that might be assessed as emotive or emotionally colored (the Cicero´s maxim a person communicating in public is even allowed to burst into tears before the audience no problem does not apply here).

  2. We will avoid criticizing or commenting on anybody who does not have a chance to react instantly. We will refrain from assessing outright our rivals, partners, competition as well as predecessors.

  3. We will always stick to facts and professionalism (speak only about the work of the individuals concerned, not about their human behaviour).
  4. Never break rule no.1 mentioned above. 


Correctness prevents anybody from calling the respondent a person manipulating the reality, a lout or a primitive, and, to a large degree, also, it prevents journalists from misrepresenting his or her speech. 

Consistency means the respondent is never, in the course of the interview, going to contradict themselves. Their view should not be developing as they speak, it should remain invaried. The same is true for their discourse, appearance and behaviour in its entirety. Staying composed and focused is of the essence.  

Conclusion

There is a range of other strategies applicable in communicating with a medium, each suiting a different occasion  – the aforesaid only fits interviews.  We choose our strategy before we start communicating with a medium; before the interview. We never change it during the interview, even if we feel the original choice was wrong.

The positive result will only be delivered, if our strategy is applied consistently. Trying to combine elements of different strategies is useless, particularly without consulting a communication expert beforehand. One final word: unless you are a seasoned media veteran, never turn up for the interview unprepared with the notion of being „authentic“ like that. The results would most likely be just the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Vojtěch Bednář

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