Handle the Press Like a Pro
Ah, the press. An establishment undervalued in its ability to shape public opinion while overvaluing its own supposed and total neutrality. The press is an integral part of media. You will not win if you ignore it, and you may still lose even if you “pander” to it. In any case, interacting with the press should be something that a political candidate must become comfortable with.
As familiar as you probably are with social media, if you find yourself interacting with those in the traditional old fashioned media during a campus campaign for office, you’ll need a few tips.
“I Don’t Know”
First and foremost, never lie to the press. In today’s world of instant communication and the accessibility of the internet to easily investigate even the most minor of issues, deliberately lying during an interview is one of the most fatal mistakes you can make. If you don’t know something or your data is old, say as much. When asked some obscure question, that you don’t have an answer for, let them know that you will look into it when you get a chance. If you instead say something along the lines of “nobody does that anymore and the impact is minimal,” a quick internet search could show that it’s the number one activity of a large percentage of the population.
Furthermore, if you said something in the past that runs contrary to your campaign platform, explain why it is that your opinion has changed to include saying something like you were once young and dumb. Explaining it in that sort of way is better than saying “I never said that” or “I never believed that” and will cause you to become a more credible candidate.
Whenever you are attending an event where there might be a media presence, make sure to dress and behave appropriately. You don’t need to be in a suit 24/7, however, dressing too casually for an event, where at least business casual would be expected sends the wrong signals.
Cultivate a professional relationship with regular reporters. By interacting with them and giving them meaningful, relevant topics, stories, or quotes, you can greatly enhance your ability to have a story spun positively in your favor. Unknown candidates or candidates who are hostile to the media are far more likely to be painted in a bad light.
One last rule: never say something to a reporter that you might regret saying no matter what the situation is. Having a cup of coffee and a reporter comes in for lunch? Treat them as if they are still “on the record”. Some of the most damaging statements from candidates have come from sources or places they weren’t expecting to be quoted.