Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Handle Pesky Media Types

What do you do when a cranky reporter comes calling and asks questions you do not want to answer or cannot?

One prospective contractor with the California stem cell agency today provided a fine example of how to deal with such a situation. We are offering it as a model that can be used by scientists, government officials and business men and women alike.

After we posted our item today involving Turner Consulting Group of Washington, D.C., we emailed a note to the firm, alerting it to the piece and asking two questions about the size of the proposed contract with CIRM and the nature of the work, none of which CIRM has yet disclosed.

Here is the verbatim response from David Cassidy, vice president of the firm:
“Hello David,

“Thank you for your e-mail, and for mentioning us in your blog. We are avid bloggers ourselves; feel free to browse if you haven't already!

“Your questions regarding CIRM are best addressed by that agency, if you'd like to invite them to do so.

“By the way, you may be interested to know that our very latest figures (yet to be published) show that we've saved the federal government $199 million. Our goal is to save US taxpayers $1 BILLION by 2016, by supporting our government clients with superior technology and management consulting services.

Cassidy did not answer our questions, but he delivered a response that served the best interests of his company, deferring to CIRM, which probably will wind up paying Turner a lot of money.

Cassidy acted within hours of the initial query, which is very important in an era when information moves at cyberspace speed. Prompt response is especially important with mainstream media, which is constantly producing a product for Web sites that change hourly in addition to the normal print and broadcast efforts. Failure to respond and late responses mean unanswered questions in a reader's mind, often reflectively unfavorably on an organization.

Cassidy's email was polite, reflecting a personal, professional and organizational confidence that would be likely to accrue to Turner's benefit.

Finally, Cassidy threw out some diversionary meat, a tactic that helps throw the running dogs of the media off the scent. His email contained two pieces of fresh – and fresh is important – information (Turner's blog and the $199 million cost savings). Even if the new material does not make it into print, questioning media types often find such stuff palliative.

Our query could have been handled reasonably in other ways as well. But Turner's response more than filled the bill, given that it wisely deferred to CIRM, and creates a benign foundation on which to build.

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