How to handle a media ambush

Don’t hide behind milk crates (true story); do be polite and turn the tables on the ambusher. Here’s how.

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Those types of ambushes do occur occasionally, but they’re somewhat rare.

More typically, an ambush occurs in one of two ways:

1. When a reporter shows up without notice (the topic of today’s post);
2. When a reporter deviates from the agreed-upon topic to blindside a source with something totally unexpected (the topic of a forthcoming post).

In both cases, the reporter is after one thing: A great visual that makes you look guilty. If you respond with defensiveness, anger, or shock, the news outlet will run the tape of your bad reaction repeatedly, often for days.

You win an ambush by denying the reporter a great visual. If you’re ever ambushed, remember the advice offered in that old deodorant ad: Never let ’em see you sweat. By remaining calm, you can prevent reporters from getting the compelling “money” shot they desire.

What not to do in an ambush

Dick Fleming, the president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA), didn’t adhere to those rules when he was ambushed last April, going so far as to hide behind milk crates in the back of a hotel conference room.

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