There’s an art in crafting a media statement.
It’s worth the effort, since a poignant statement can diffuse a negative story, and even move a company’s point of view forward.
The media statement is a good tool to use when a client isn’t prepared to offer a full-blown interview, or when the business or organization doesn’t stand to gain anything from participating in an interview because of the story’s subject matter.
Plus, providing the media with a statement will ensure a consistent message from your organization. Many journalists these days will simply ask for a statement given their time pressures and lack of air-time or reporting space.
Generally, the best statements are ones that are short, to the point, and rise above the fray. This is particularly important when you’re being asked to respond to a negative story, or ones dealing with legal issues.
Then there’s the challenge of providing the media a statement before the reporter or producer finishes the story. With numerous hands in the pot, not to mention wordy lawyers, getting a timely sign-off on a statement before deadline can be an exercise in futility.
Think of a statement as sound-bite, but one where the media can’t cut it off or use it out of context. Here are some tips to follow when you are charged with writing a statement.
1. Keep it short and to the point. What’s short? No more than three concise sentences. The longer the statement, the less of a chance the media will use it. Additionally, it gives them the opportunity to edit it down, and most likely they’ll butcher the main intent.
2. Send the statement before the reporter’s deadline. This gives you a better chance that it will be used in its entirety and increases the chance that it will be used in a more prominent location within the story. Statements that come after the stories have been written usually get tacked on the end, if at all.
3. Make sure the statement says something of substance. A nothing statement will be perceived as such by the media and their audience.
4. Keep it positive. The media likes nothing more than creating drama. Keep the statement positive and forward looking, and you may deny the critical he-said, she-said perception of a story.
5. Keep names and logos out of it, sometimes. For negative stories, simply put the statement in an email and don’t mention your company’s name. This way they won’t blast it on the screen with a logo, highlighting the company.
6. Get legal sign-off. The last thing you want a statement to do is to create more controversy.
It’s often hard for PR people to advise their clients to respond with a written media statement. As a general rule, our initial reactions tend to fall on the side of over-communicating. But a well-crafted media statement can walk the line between saying too much and saying nothing at all.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.