Public Relations Rules for Off the Record Chats
Although having an off-the-record conversation with a reporter sounds complex or even mysterious, it’s a very effective public relations tool. Whether that means a business owner is providing honest information about a trend in the industry that they find frustrating, or trying to find a way to ease the impact of an upcoming story about the company itself, there are plenty of benefits when it comes to off the record conversations with the press, even though their impact tends to be indirect.
Additionally, off-the-record conversations aren’t just limited to crisis management or politics, although they’re mostly mentioned in those contexts. These types of conversations can be beneficial for technology or business PR as well as storytelling.
When a conversation is considered to be off the record there’s an understanding between the journalist and whoever they’re talking to that the journalist will not quote that conversation, or even paraphrase what’s being said. There will be no mention or record of that information anywhere.
While some people believe that there’s no reason to have off-the-record conversations when the information can’t be used, they are still important. This is because they can be used as a tool to share valuable information with a journalist, which can then guide their future research. These conversations can also help shape any future coverage of the company in different meaningful ways. However, when looking to reference some pieces of that conversation, the journalist will have to refer to other sources or proof.
One thing that everyone should keep in mind is that off-the-record agreements are not legally binding, but they are still a culturally accepted method in the news industry for sourcing information. Generally, journalists honor the off-the-record agreements they make because they want to maintain their relationships and levels of trust with their sources while still sharing worthwhile news and information. Although mistakes can happen and some information can end up public, it’s important to get the agreement in writing, before the conversation ever happens, and then to reconfirm the guidelines once the conversation has finished.
Having an off-the-record conversation means that the spokesperson is in the perfect spot to share some essential information. That means it’s not an opportunity to speak freely about every opinion they have simply because the conversation is off the record. There’s no need to go overboard when chatting with a journalist off the record. Otherwise, that person risks having the reporter going down the wrong direction.
That’s why it’s important for whoever is having an off-the-record conversation with a journalist to stick to a single topic or talking point and to continuously stick to it. This is the only way to avoid talking about potentially relevant points or sharing too much information that’s not relevant.