When a Reporter Calls Your HOA Board
When there’s drama in your association, a reporter is typically close by. Frequently, it’s the negative news that makes headlines. If the drama winds up turning “lemons into lemonade”, it may not make the news. Why? Our first instinct is to decline when a reporter asks for a comment on negative occurrences, even when the ending is positive.
Typically, it’s fear of the unknown, but “no comment” won’t stop the news from going public. Freezing a reporter out is a dramatic step that will backfire, so consider the consequences before you do that.
When a reporter calls on your homeowner association, it’s helpful to have thought through what you want to say. You need preparation time whether the news coverage is positive, neutral or negative. It’s also essential for your Board to designate a spokesperson—someone who is a good communicator and comfortable responding to questions. However, all Board members need to agree on the points your spokesperson plans to convey. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the media path.
- If a reporter calls before you are prepared, ask for the deadline and return the call before the deadline. This will give you time to gather information and collect your thoughts before responding.
- It’s ok to prepare notes on points that you want to get across. Use objective fact-based information instead of subjective opinions as much as possible. Refer to your notes for statistics and details during the interview.
- Be cooperative, not defensive. Good reporters listen to both sides of a story and strive to get the facts before writing, even when they don’t agree.
- Don’t assume anything you say is off the record. Refrain from thinking aloud or sharing an opinion that you don’t want to see in print. Don’t fill silence with idle chatter because you can inadvertently say something that you didn’t want to voice.
- Give as direct an answer as possible, stating the most important things first. Back up your statement with facts when available.
- If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know and you’ll try to get the information. No one expects you to be an expert on everything.
- Don’t speak in acronyms or industry jargon. The reporter may not be familiar with these terms.
- If the interview is videoed, try not to use hand movements (touching your face, fidgeting, etc.).
- Look the interviewer in the eye. Don’t look around at others or the floor.
- Provide copies or send an email after the interview with facts and information that you covered during the interview. Address any follow ups you mentioned during the interview, even if you didn’t find information.
- Call or email the reporter after the story is published if you feel that it was a good article. This helps build media relationships for the future.