It can happen to anyone…

…even the White House Press Secretary. If you are going to go “off-script”, know what you are talking about. And then, know your audience so that you can know how it will be received.

To help out all the prospective spokespeople out there, here is my top 5 list of things you should never get wrong when speaking to the media. Admittedly, there are other points to consider but these are just as legitimate as any:

5. Lay off the millennials. They get it…you don’t like them. But they make up a pretty big portion of your target audience. According to Statistics Canada, half of Canada was at least 40 years old in 2014. So, while about half of the population of the country can laugh along, another pretty big chunk just went down the road with their money and support.

4. Deflecting blame must be woven into our DNA as part of the fight-or-flight response. I know it is tempting to say, “What we did may seem bad but look at what THEY did!” or “They put us in this position!” but I highly recommend you “fight” that urge. It is narcissistic and people can see through it.

3. The journalist may not be your friend but doesn’t mean you can treat them like your enemy. They are doing their job. In fact, if you want to get technical, they are doing the job that you have told them you want them to do. The Constitution Act of 1982 defines “freedom of the press and other media of communication” as a Fundamental Freedom in the second paragraph…so, pretty important, I guess! Plus, every time you buy a newspaper or in any way, shape or form contribute to sustaining a media outlet, you are giving them license to pursue their next story.

2. You are never off the record…ever. The outpouring of personal revelations and emotional expression should be reserved for quiet moments of self-reflection, not for the interview. Focus on your key message; stay on point. If you find yourself in a conversation with a media outlet or journalist, remember that if your lips are moving, you are responsible for the words that pass through them.

1. Never, under any circumstances suggest that anything Hitler or the Nazis did, regardless of how strongly you think you can back it up, was good. Ever. I am hesitant to bring him up here! Just don’t do it.

Wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Spicer?

Referenced sites:

Statististics Canada – Section 2: Population by age and sex
The Narcissist Blames You!
White House gaffe on Hitler and chemical weapons draws ire
Why does everyone keep making Nazi comparisons?

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