Presentation on theme: "BY SABELO DLAMINI. “Governments have so much information that they need an effective way to distribute it to their citizens, and that is where a Government."— Presentation transcript:
“Governments have so much information that they need an effective way to distribute it to their citizens, and that is where a Government Communications Officer comes in,” Mike Curry former Press Secretary to US President Bill Clinton.
Government Communications Officers should not expect to be friends or enemies of journalists. Each should respect the role of the other and yet recognize that a natural tension exists between the two. But you do need to have a professional relationship with journalists. A personal one might be difficult because there will be times when a journalist will ask probing questions and write or air a story that you may not want.
Journalists need Government Communications Officers to help them understand Government’s actions and plans. Government Communications Officers on the other hand need journalists to get information on the Government’s actions and plans to the public. So this relationship is reciprocal.
Be accessible. Return calls as soon as possible even if you have no real information to offer at that time. Journalists attach great importance to this.
Be helpful Give the best detailed and up-to-date guidance as possible. Even if you cannot help, at least sound helpful.
Be friendly But realize that friendship has limits. Rather have a professional relationship than a personal relationship.
Do not waffle If you do not know the answer or cannot give it at that time, just say so. It will rarely be held against you but NEVER says no comment. It is like a red flag and only serves to stimulate juices of speculation.
Do not lie If you do chances are that you will be found out sooner or later and your credibility destroyed. Credibility is the single most important resource of a Communications Officer or spokesperson. If you mislead unintentionally, try to correct the story before it goes out. If you are too late, be prepared to explain to the editor that you were responsible for getting it wrong.
Take Journalists seriously. Like all professionals they need to be respected. Try to understand the pressures they work under. Do not have favourites, the rest will sooner or later try to get even.
If you want coverage, be proactive Do not wait to field questions but be proactive in releasing news worthy material to the media. Remember a dull product will not make news just because it is coming from Government.
Correct inaccurate information Call journalists or their editors if an inaccurate story appears. Point out what is wrong and substantiate it. Don’t make threats. Expect everything you say in correcting that mistake to be on record.
Be accurate Your reputation and credibility depends on accuracy. Don’t improvise, speculate or guess. Good journalists check facts and if you’re wrong your credibility will be destroyed.
Assume that everything you say is on record. Never say you are speaking “off the cuff.” If anything it means I’m thinking out aloud without real thought to the consequences.
Make sure that whatever you release or say to the media, represents policy or the position of the Ministry and Government NOT your personal opinion.
“Frustration is almost built in the fabric of the job. Unless you have a sense of humour, it is a grim business indeed,” says David Beckwith a former vice presidential spokesperson (US)