AZCentral’s Laurie Roberts wrote an opinion piece raising questions about the campaign and travel expenses of Arizona State Senator Don Shooter. Roberts wrote Shooter did not return several phone calls to discuss the questions.
In a video that accompanies Roberts’ story, a 12News reporter tells us he tried to talk to Shooter about the opinion piece. The 12News reporter says someone told him Shooter would be in a meeting. But the reporter says a few minutes later, he saw Shooter walk to his car. The reporter turned on his camera but says Shooter didn’t respond and drove away.
Any businessperson or politician facing scrutiny who hasn’t addressed the media’s questions shouldn’t be surprised if a reporter approaches him or her outside an office or in a parking lot. Your strategy for handling those situations should stretch beyond not responding or driving away. (We are assuming the reporters have accurately portrayed their interactions with Shooter.)
- Answer the media’s questions. Explaining your side of the story on the phone or in person is much less awkward than reporters tracking you down at unexpected times or locations. Worse, the next time you face the media for a positive story, reporters may take advantage of that opportunity to address tough questions while the audience listens.
- Before the interview, decide what one to three key messages you plan to focus on when addressing the questions. Keep circling back to your core points. Don’t delve into unnecessary details if possible. Use phrases such as, “The key issue is,” “It’s important to note that,” “Let me reiterate that.”
- If necessary, explain you are working to improve and consider changes.
- If you truly can’t comment, explain why. Maybe you need more time to get information. Maybe you don’t want to give out wrong information. Whatever phrases you provide, avoid no comment.
Be transparent. And that doesn’t mean looking at reporters through the windows of your vehicle.