Cover Image
close this bookEmergency Management (United Nations Children's Fund, 390 p.)
close this folderWorkshop Session
View the documentSession 0: Opening Session
View the documentSession 1: Course Introduction*
View the documentSession 2: Perceptions of Emergencies
View the documentSession 3: Simulation*
View the documentSession 4: Principles of Emergency Management
View the documentSession 5: Early Warning & Pre-Disaster Planning
View the documentSession 6: Assessment
View the documentSession 7: Programme Planning
View the documentSession 8: Water & Sanitation
View the documentSession 9: Health
View the documentSession 10: Food and Nutrition
View the documentSession 11: Media Relations
View the documentSession 12: Supply and Logistics
View the documentSession 13: Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances
View the documentSession 14: International Relief System
View the documentSession 15: Funding
View the documentSession 16: Key Operating Procedures
View the documentSession 17: Applications of Emergency Manual and Handbook
View the documentSession 18: Training of Trainers

Session 11: Media Relations

Learning Objectives

- Understand the power of the media and use it as a resource and an opportunity in emergency situations.

- Be aware of the UNICEF guidelines for contacts with journalists in the field

- Understand the concept of different information strategies for various media and audiences.

- Know the advantage of preparing yourself with the message you wish to convey regardless of the question.

- Know importance of consistency, transparency and a positive but honest attitude.

- Be familiar with tactics and techniques for various media presentations.

Learning Points

- Role of media in stimulating public awareness and government response.

- What arrangements should be made and responsibilities assigned for servicing the media locally and internationally

- How to build and maintain an ongoing relationship with members of the media before/during/after and the merits of give and take.

- How to manage an information officer whose task, among others, will be to develop objectives, strategy and messages for different audiences and medias: print, audio, visual, ...

- Importance of a focal point and clearly defined channels for information flow and clearing mechanisms within the office and between field offices, Geneva and New York HQ.

- Highlight possibility of using media to convey messages to victims when appropriate.

- Do's and Don'ts of interviews, how not to be intimidated, go off-record, etc., etc.

- Be able to differentiate messages for local vs. International press with appropriate sensitivities.

- Know procedures for facilitating foreign press coverage.

- Be familiar with local media capacity and be able to mobilize quickly.

Possible Learning Methods

- Presentation. Group Exercise.

A. Divided participants into three groups and give each of the groups one of the assignments listed below (assignments must be given before showing the video).

B. Show the video "What about the U.N.?", on Karamoja emergency.

- I. In your view, what information given by the interviewees was:

a) most useful
b) most harmful
c) least factual

II. If you were interviewed in exactly the same situation, list at least ten things you would not say or do that the interviewees in the film have said or done.

III. Evaluate the CBS coverage of the emergency: was it objective; was it sensational; what effect do you believe it had on the public, donors, UNICEF.

- Reconvene in a plenary session to review group reports and cover other learning points of session.

Required Reading

- Burston and Marstellar, "Media Relations"
- Field Manual, Book E, Chapter 12.

Supplementary Reading

- DMC, Disaster Preparedness, Chapter 8.

Speakers' Preparation Aids

- CBS video on Karamoja "What about the U.N.?"
- Bangkok listening team report


Speaker’s Aid

TITLE: Media Relations
AUTHOR: Burson-Marsteller









· The media consists of individuals with the same type of career motivations we all have, modified by pressures to get a story out by their next deadline and to "beat" their competition.

· Reporters' needs and behaviour differ greatly, depending on whether they are print or broadcast.

· Newspaper reporters can be expected to need and use more information than their counterparts in television.

· If information is not forthcoming from management, they will solicit it wherever it can be found. Some leeway with daily newspapers.

· Radio reporters with a deadline every hour are the most volatile.

· Most likely to dispatch news to the public without checking with management.

What they are not (necessarily)

· Expert/knowledgeable/specialist
· Supportive or opposed

What they want

· The facts
· A story
· Cooperation

What they dislike

· No comment
· Stalling
· No call backs
· Aggression

What they are

· Powerful
· Influential
· Opinion leaders
· Wielders of influence
· Biased (many reasons)
· Under pressure
· Human

What they will always have

· The last word (if you let them)
· The power to distort or interpret
· Little control over editing or headlines
· No desire to print retractions
· Little patience if they suspect stalling
· Full control over the story - no reading back - may check through
· No respect for "off the record"

N.B. They are all different - styles, level of ethics. They are people. Each one, however, junior or senior demands respect, attention and patience.

The press enquiry

· Evaluate the inquiry:

- What is the reporter/interviewer looking for?
- What does the publication/medium specialize in?
- What are their concerns

· Get help:

No one knows all the facts all the time. If you're unsure of an answer, don't risk a guess.

- make sure you know and confirm the facts
- find the proper spokesman

· Be aware of deadlines:

Every reporter has a deadline, whether he works in print or electronic media. However, if you are faced with a difficult or complex question, don't feel obligated to give an answer on the spot.

· Know the reporter's audience:

Each publication, newspaper, television or radio station has differing focuses and needs. Consider the reporter's audience when you present information or answer inquiries.

Try to determine what will motivate them to accept your point of view.

Ask him about the concept of the story - what other information will he be using, who else he's contacted, how your information will be used, how big it is to be played.

· Know the interviewer:

If possible, try to preview the programme on which you'll appear ahead of time, or read some articles by the reporter who will interview you. Consider the editorial stance of the station or publication. Determine the interviewer's style, orientation and beat. It's a good way to eliminate surprises.

· Check details:

What format? (print, radio, TV)
Length of interview/article
Interview venue

The preparation

· Prepare communications objectives:

- before the interview or appearance, have one or two key ideas or communications objectives that you want to leave with the audience. Make sure that you get these points across, regardless of the reporter's objectives.

- Your goal as an interviewee is to lead or control the interview as much as possible to assure you get your key objectives across.

· Anticipate questions:

You will probably know the questions the reporter will logically ask you. Prepare in advance how you can answer these to your advantage so you can tell your message. But make your preparation loose enough to leave room for the unexpected. Be aware of the "what goes wrong makes news" syndrome.

· Develop your own story:

- Sometimes reporters may not take the time to do the necessary "homework" for a productive interview. This often presents an opportunity for you to tactfully raise topics you want to talk about.

- Don't be shy if you come across a good story subject. The press is always looking for interesting new stories, and no one knows what's going on in your field better than you do. Take the initiative, the story is positive. Be prepared to take the lead and direct the interview into positive areas of information.

· Rehearse:

Do some role-playing and rehearse on your own, with co-workers, colleagues or with someone who is not involved in your industry concerns. Keep your thoughts simple and clear.

The Interview

· Be honest:

A lie to the press can be very damaging. You must decide just how candid you will be. Erroneous information will ruin your credibility with the public and the press. Don't be embarrassed to answer a question with "I don't know."

· Take the initiative/control:

Be prepared to take the lead and direct the interview into positive areas of information about your organization or position. Avoid answering speculative "what if" questions. Turn negatives into positives.

· Be prompt:

Arrive early in order to talk to the reporter ahead of time.

· Be believable:

Credibility is vital to getting your message across.

· Be personal:

Use the interviewer's name once or twice in the course of the interview and look at him.
Anecdotes play well on radio and television, if you have a story that makes a good point for your side.

· Be conversational:

Use layman's terms (not jargon) that the viewers or listeners will understand. Try humour if it's appropriate.

· Be concise:

Remember that a 10-minute interview may wind up being 20 seconds on the air, or 3 lines in the newspaper. It is essential to crystalize your thoughts in a few hard-hitting sentences.

- Use key words. State important facts first.
- Cut out extraneous verbage - keep language non-inflammatory, simple and candid.

Stop when you have answered the question
Unsolicited information can raise some questions.

· Get your objectives in:

Try to get your objectives in early... you may be sidetracked later on.
This is especially true with television interviews.

· Evaluate the question:

When asked a question, especially from an unknown source, you should evaluate it on several levels:

- what the questioner is saying
- how the questioner is saying it
- what the questioner expects to hear back

· Stay cool:

Remember the reporter/interviewer may be fishing to unnerve you so you will divulge proprietary or unrelated information.

· Correct misstatements:

Not all reporters do their homework judiciously. If a reporter is wrong about a fact or position, you must correct his error as soon as possible. However, you should do so in a courteous, non-threatening manner.


General situations

· Keep your answers short, straightforward, and candid. It's helpful to repeat the question before answering it.

· If you get a question you can't answer, tell the questioner you'll be glad to provide a complete answer, but you need further information. Don't hesitate to say you don't know the answer.

· Don't get sidetracked into an unrelated or unimportant subject. Get back on the right track by saying:

"I recognize that, but what's important here is..."


I'm really not prepared to discuss that particular point here today, so let's focus on..."

· If you get questions on sensitive or proprietary areas, simply state, "I'm afraid that it is proprietary information and I'm not in a position to answer that."

· Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. It adds credibility and candidness to yourself and your answer.

· Refer to the interviewer by name. It helps establish a positive relationship with the interviewer and adds personal credibility.

· Don't say anything "off the record." However well you may know the reporter or feel you understand journalistic practice, do not divulge anything you don't want published or used.

· Don't let words be put in your mouth. If the interviewer starts a question with "You mean to say that...," counter with "What I said was..." or "I was specially referring to...". You control your answer. Not the interviewer.

· Don't guess or speculate. If you don't know, say so. Don't answer "I think..." or "I assume...".

· Don't argue or attack the media. The interviewer will always get the last word. Don't be drawn into an emotional situation. You'll lose the opportunity to present your viewpoint in a firm, direct and objective manner.



Suggested Action

Question is preceded by a hostile remark or inaccurate assumption

Counter the remark or assumption first. Examples:

"First, let me correct a misconception that was part of your question..."

"You're mistaken about..., but I'm glad you raised the point because..."

"Let me explain what we did in that situation, and why we did it. I think you would have done the same thing."

"Before I answer your question, I want to point out..."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, but let me ask you to consider this...

You don't know the answer, but feel it ought to be answered by headquarters.

"I'm sorry, I just don't know the answer to that. But I can get it for you want. Just write your question on this sheet of paper, and give it to me before I leave here today (tonight). Please include your phone number."

Several people at once seek your attention to ask a question.

Recognize the first person you see, then mentally note and come back to the others in order. Try to recognize each person before giving anyone a second opportunity. This will prevent one or two questioners from dominating the session.

You get a series of critical, hostile and even nasty questions.

Make your answers firm and emphatic. Don't be defensive. Maintain your courtesy so you don't lose the goodwill of the entire audience. (Most audiences, though they may be uninformed, or misinformed, will be fair-minded. You'll make your points, and gain credibility, if you avoid letting a heckler bait you into "losing your cool.")

You get a series of critical, hostile, and even nasty, questions from one individual who is dominating the Q&A period.

"You seem to be in fundamental disagreement with what I am saying, it might be useful if you would summarize your views in a few words." (If he accepts, he will quickly expose his bias - and his ignorance; or he may make a vulnerable statement that you can readily refute.)

You get a hostile question that is clearly designed to embarrass you - and you don't want to dignify it by attempting an answer.

"I am ready and willing to try to answer any fair and reasonable questions. But I don't think it would be fair to take the time of this group to dwell on a question like that."

You are interrupted by a hostile remark or question during your comments.

Say you'll answer the question, or comment on the remark, after you have finished your comment.

Someone shouts a hostile one-liner such as "garbage" or "that's a lot of..." while you are talking.

Look at the heckler and say: "We'll take up your special interest in a moment, sir."

Questioner makes a hostile remark that is really funny.

Join in the laughter; indeed laugh louder than anyone; then make appropriate response.

There are no questions.

"You may be interested in one or two questions I've gotten from other groups." Then ask yourself a question that will enable you to emphasize one of your major points.


· You must be able to adapt your communications message and your style of delivery to a variety of interview formats and reporters.

· Hard news:

In a hard news situation, the reporter is looking for a short declarative statement that tells the whole story.

· Face-to-face:

Face-to-face refers to interviews that have been pre-arranged. A reporter will normally have a wide variety of questions to pose, and will selectively probe some issues while only skimming others. The opportunity exists for you to make a lengthier response, and lead the interview into areas you want to talk about.


· If you are being asked questions that do not lend them selves to the key points which you want to get across, you can try these approaches:

· Answer the interviewer's question and then say ... "But there's a few points of greater interest which I think you should be aware of ... "


"But there's some information which I think would be of even greater interest to your audience/readers ..."

· After answering a question, you take the initiative and bring up the information:

"There's an additional point which I think you should be aware of ... "

· Or if you are asked a question which somehow relates to an important point, try this:

"I'm glad you asked that. Let me try to answer it in this way..."

· An additional way of getting your points across is to prepare a FACT SHEET containing your key points and giving it to the journalist when he arrives for the interview.

· Panel interviews or discussions:

Panel interviews or discussions are interviews that are arranged by the reporter or producer to discuss an event or an issue in depth. You may be one of several panelists representing different issues or the panel might contain several media representatives questioning you about your industry. Brevity, accuracy and "keeping your cool" are key ingredients in handling these questions.

· The press conference:

A press conference is often intense and can be distracting. Hot television lights are directed toward you, microphones are everywhere. A subtle rivalry between the various journalists present often exists, which results in one reporter trying to shout down another. Under such circumstances, you must again maintain calm to keep control.



DO wear subdued colored clothes and especially tie (no checks or over-striped suits).

DO check your appearance before going into the studio - tie, hair, buttons, zips?

DO sit upright and tidily.

DO look at interviewer all the time except when you are meant to be addressing the TV audience.

DO speak in simple language; avoid jargon at all costs.

DO make short statements, each holding up on its own.

DO remember to make your most important points as early as possible.

DO avoid tortuous logic.

DO before you begin, discuss with the interviewer what line the discussion will take.

DO remember the interviewer knows less about your subject than you do.

DO have reference material handy.

DO try to have the last word.

DO remember that any taped or videotaped programme is likely to be edited before use.

DO check out the background of your interviewer beforehand - likewise the programme. B-M can help.


DON'T smoke on the air.

DON'T forget the smallest mannerisms show up more obviously on TV.

DON'T accept a revolving or movable chair.

DON'T fidget or fiddle with pens, pencils, lighters, etc.

DON'T forget your hankerchief!

DON'T say "I think" too often, it sounds as though you are uncertain of your subject.

Dealing with the media

· Crystallize points into short, hard-hitting phrases; use them as jumping-off points.
· Support statements with facts/third party evidence.
· Use widest viewpoint/policy rather than individual thought.
· Don't restate critics position.
· Get to your most important points first.

But don't

· Say anything "off the record."
· Let words be put in your mouth.
· Don't guess or speculate.
· Don't argue or attack the media.
· Don't get lulled into a false sense of security.


Speaker’s Aid (2)

TITLE: Media
AUTHOR: UNICEF/DMC Listening Team, Bangkok 1987




Three basic points:

- Media technology, power and influence
- Relation with the media
- Do's and Don'ts of interviews

The technological revolution has had a major impact on the media in recent years which in turn has given the media a powerful and influential role in defining and shaping events.

To ignore this is as grievous as, say, not recognizing the importance of funding in the provision of humanitarian assistance.

There are three elements of this which should be kept in mind:

- the speed of which graphic news can be presented - these days it is almost instantaneous

- the capacity of the media to cover any item it considers of interest

- the growing number of people who have access to the visual media -- their heightened awareness of the issues involved in emergencies

- It should thus be recognized that the media is an important and legitimate factor in emergency situations and must be accorded a high priority in any disaster management scenario.

Failure to acknowledge this will almost inevitably lead to negative repercussions.

Relations with the media

- The importance of constructive and open relations with the media cannot be overemphasized.

There is no "golden rule" on how this can be achieved, but an understanding of, and respect for, the media will help.

- Be particular. It may be useful to remember that the media works completely under pressure ... and imperfection or incomplete presentation is the norm. Few stories could not be rewritten or presented differently.

- A journalist, like a policeman, is never off-duty

- Good media relations are of mutual benefit. A good journalist is keen to develop sound sources and will normally respect and safeguard these

- The concept of a Bureau of Public information is passe; international organizations are by their mandate and nature, public and denying access to it is not only counter-productive but often results in a distorted picture.

In this respect, it is important to remember that the first story makes the most impact...subsequent attempts to modify or change perspectives are not generally or easily successful.

- All agency personnel likely to encounter the media should be familiar with the organizations perspectives and objectives.

Do's and Don'ts of Interviews

- These points are summarized in 'the "handouts" but some additional or further points may be of help.

- Many people and/or organizations see the media as an adversary or "panic" when "confronted" with a journalist or press conference.

- The easiest and most effective way to counteract this is, as already indicated, developing friendly relations with the press and being PREPARED.

- If not already familiar with the journalist, prospective audience orientation, etc. request to see his/her credentials.

- On "being prepared," know your facts and figures and stick to these; avoid getting side-tracked into issues you are not familiar with or outside your area of competence.

- Do not offer personal options and make a clear distunction between is on and off the record.

- Don't be defensive; if constraints are present refer to these but avoid dumping on or blaming others.

- Initiate a dialogue; do not let the journalist control the situation; in particular do not let the journalist put words into your mouth. If a response is misinterpreted or cut short, indicate so politely - such as "what I said was" or "what I was in the process of saying".

- If necessary rehearse or do some role-playing before an interview or press conference; anticipate questions - and the answers you can give to sensitive or awkward queries.

- Maintain eye contact; this is particularly important on television.

- Whatever the provocation or circumstances remain calm - do not fidget, slouch in your seat, or wear clothing that in uncomfortable, too hot or inappropriate.

- Keep answers short and straight-forward, avoid rhetoric, jargon and acronyms.

- If you do not have the correct answer to a query, say so candidly; do not hazard a guess.

- In brief, you know more about your subject that the interviewer. This is what you should get across.


Day _______________
Session ____________

1. In your view, what were the key points learned in this session?

2. Comment on the application of these within UNICEF and your situation.

3. Suggest any additional critical points that should have been covered.

4. Do you have comments on the suggested reading?

Suggest any additional information sources for sessions of the day.
Case Studies:

5. Comment on the learning methodology (lectures, group work, films) used in the session.