This Is “Off the Record.” Or Is It?

Dec 5, 2014 | Public Relations

Uber had a bit of a public relations disaster this past month — after all, when your senior VP suggests the company hire a team of opposition researchers to provide fodder for attacks on its media critics, you can expect journalists to react in anger.

Adweek gathered a round-up of top tweets regarding Uber’s sticky situation, with some choice criticisms. In response, we asked our public relations team to provide a few pointers when it comes to media relations.

No matter how casual your relationship with a reporter, you are always a representation of your brand during those interactions. Saying, this is “off the record” is never a 100-percent guarantee that what you say won’t be published.

Reporters are neither friend nor foe.

  • They’re conduits to the real audience — readers, viewers, listeners — your customers.
  • They’re not out to get you — they’re out to get a good story with understandable, accurate information delivered in an interesting way.

Reporters aren’t police officers or prosecutors — you’re never required to answer their questions.

  • Be truthful — if you’re asked a question you’re not prepared to answer, use a phrase such as, “I’m not in a position to answer that question” or “Can I get back to you?”
  • Then refer them to your superior or obtain the information requested, responding in a timely manner.

Take “no comment” out of your vocabulary.

  • There are many ways to communicate “no comment” without actually saying it.
  • If you can’t answer a reporter’s question(s), explain why you can’t answer.
  • If you don’t know the answer, say so, but offer to get the information.

Uber would have done better to communicate with their public relations team from the beginning, identifying opportunities to secure positive coverage and address some of the industry criticisms without targeting individual reporters or reacting emotionally to perceived slights.

At Gavin, we recognize that, proper strategic media relations — and relying on the expertise of your PR team — can go a long way in protecting your brand and communicating your message to your consumers in a thoughtful, positive way.