How to Prevent Foot-in-Mouth Disease when Dealing with the Media—the Dos & Donts

Do you feel ill or uncomfortable when dealing with the media? Do you have the habit of sticking your foot in your mouth"during media interviews? Do you wish to hide or be excused whenever the media contacts you? Well, the PR Doctor has a simple prescription for you in the form of what to do and what not to do when dealing with the media. The prescription has been developed through many years of dealing with the local, regional, national and international media combined with some sage advice from many friends in the media over more than 35 years.

My prescription for What To DO:

DO know who you are dealing with in the media.

DO consider the consequences (positive & negative) of media exposure.

DO be sensitive to media deadlines (different media have different deadlines).

DO have an articulate and knowledgeable spokesperson (this may not always be the CEO or executive director).

DO have a well prepared news release (if one is warranted).

DO make yourself or the appropriate spokesperson available for follow-up contact.

DO be on time for appointments (although media people may not always be on time).

DO say "I don't know" if you do not know.

DO be patient with inexperienced or uninformed reporters.

DO return phone calls (note deadline pressures).

My prescription for What NOT TO DO:

DON'T expect that the media will do your job for you.

DON'T try to tell the media how to do their job.

DON'T think the media will draw the same conclusions you do.

DON'T leave out facts that might be damaging in the hope that the media will not know the difference.

DON'T play favorites with the media without carefully considering the pros and cons.


DON'T tell a known untruth because it will ALWAYS come back to haunt you.

DON'T be afraid to disagree (professionally) when a reporter inaccurately paraphrases what you have said or tries to put words in your mouth.

DON'T use jargon, or "inside" jokes or phrases.

DON'T call the media to ask if your story or article ran and can you get a copy.

These tips were written by J. Glenn Ebersole, Jr., chief executive of J. G. Ebersole Associates and The Renaissance Group. This article originally appeared on

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