There is a single word that explains why constantly bridging and staying on message are doomed as media relations tactics: convergence.
As the embedded interview to the left illustrates (if the interview isn’t visible, click here to go to the TV network site), before convergence a spokesperson could get away with repeating the same thing over and over, especially when answering questions from a print journalist or providing a quote for a newscast.
Today, however, the rules have changed. A single article on a website can contain both the print article, which provides detail into the issue, and the actual unedited interview with the spokesperson. In this format, it becomes obvious that the spokesperson is avoiding all questions by stubbornly repeating the same thing over and over.
There are some lessons to be learned here:
- The only remaining forum in which blindly bridging and staying on message are even remotely applicable is politics. If the spokesperson is representing a not-for-profit organization, a private or public corporation, or a government agency, he or she cannot get away with these outdated tactics. There are too many other places to find answers to questions.
- If transparency is a value of your organization, your spokespeople must answer questions. The question-and-answer process is the only bridge that counts, because it bridges the gap between “truth” and “transparency.”
- If you teach bridging or staying on message as primary tactics in any media relations course at any post-secondary institution, please stop. These are outdated paradigms in an information-driven world. Your students need better and, quite frankly, so does our industry.
- If your media training consultant focuses on constantly bridging or is mired in staying on message, find someone else to work with. Your spokespeople and your organization deserve better.