• Views December 5, 2016

As the dust settles on the tumultuous presidential election and 2016 draws to a close (phew!), itís a fitting time to reflect on the lessons learned.

Itís worthwhile to examine how the candidates handled the media during this unprecedented campaign, and what implications this may have for companies and communicators.

Politics and personalities aside, we had the unusual dynamic of two candidates whose approach to media relations could not have been further apart. One held the media at armís length for the duration of the campaign, and one engaged in a love-hate (okay, mostly hate) relationship with the press. Both candidates failed in different ways as communicators. They made mistakes that we often counsel our clients against.

Hereís a rundown of media tips that we wish we could have given both candidates (if theyíd listen), that also work for businesses:

  • Tell the truth. This one doesnít always work in politics, but itís best to be forthcoming, never hedge, and acknowledge if you donít know the answer. The media usually has a way of ferreting out the truth in the end. †
  • Avoid hyperbole. The media canít do much with platitudes. Keep answers succinct and educational, and stay away from vague, general banalities.
  • Turn negatives into positives. Redirect negative questions by either restating them in more positive terms or by bridging to something more important and meaningful. In other words, donít get mired in the dirt!
  • Treat the media with respect. Journalists are the guardians of the First Amendment, and they have a critical role in our democracy. When meeting or talking with them, prepare appropriately, look them in the eye, and play by the rules.
  • Use social media wisely. Our new Tweeter-in-Chief may disagree, but social media isnít the place to explain complex positions or policies.

With a president-elect who bends a lot of traditional rules, we could be evolving to a ďnew normalĒ as far as media relationships go. Only time will tell. But this presidential election demonstrated that we all have a role to play in shaping the media landscape. Preserving these guidelines is a place to start.