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4 Tips to Prepare Your Company to Engage With the Media
As general counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters, Craig Parshall is using more than legal skills to advocate on behalf of the nonprofit organization. From giving media interviews on controversial issues to writing blog posts about potential public relation disasters for NRB’s goals, Parshall says he is accessing “the court of public opinion” to articulate his group’s mission.
1. Engage in the conversation
Whether through newer media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, digital magazine articles sent directly to their constituents, or blog posts placed on relevant sites, Parshall suggests that it is imperative to find ways to get involved in the issues on behalf of your organization. He recently weighed in about a controversial new reality TV program with a contributed blog post on Christianpost.com. Using concrete examples that explain complex legal issues in simple terms, Parshall advocates for the NRB using his own voice.
2. Understand the journalist’s point of view
Parshall says it’s critical to understand some of the problems and issues facing journalists today. They’re “not always looking to undermine your position,” he notes, but instead they’re trying to find out where and what the story is. In law school you learn how to identify the legal issue, he explains, but when speaking with the press, it’s important to “help frame the broader cultural, policy, and social aspects of the issue as well,” he says.
3. Talk to the media—but not always
During the recent speculation around the Internal Revenue Service and its alleged over-scrutiny of conservative nonprofit groups, Parshall was asked by many media outlets to weigh in on the issue. He wrote a blog post on the topic and did a number of media interviews, but he didn’t accept all requests that came his way. “Do homework and be choosy about venues that you go into,” he says, explaining that the old adage “ink is ink” doesn’t apply in this age of instant communication.
4. No comment—At Least Not Right Now
The “no comment” comment can be “nuanced,” explains Parshall. “If you represent a nonprofit like I do, and you know there’s a controversial issue and you know you’re not prepared for whatever reason to comment specifically on the question,” he suggests leaving “the door open, rather than simply saying ‘We can’t comment.’ ”