How many hats do your staff wear?

24 October 2014

John Key refused to answer questions in Parliament this week about phone conversations with Cameron Slater because he was wearing the hat of National Party Leader at the time, not the PM.

This was a fair reply, but it does raise an important question. What hats do you wear when talking to the media? And more importantly, do you know what hats your staff wear? If you don’t, this could come back to bite you.

For example, there have been incidents with schools around the world where teachers have made extra money as strippers. If you have staff who have other occupations or interests that would not go down well with clients, you need to know.

What if a senior executive turned out to be a member of a local White Supremacist group? What if that person spoke to a journalist and it was revealed he was on your senior management team. That may be unlikely, but possible.

The first thing you must do to avoid this is have a strict social media policy. If a staff member does do something in her spare time that would embarrass, make sure there is no link or mention of your business on that page.

Also make sure that if interviewed by media in that context, your business is not mentioned.

Clearly a Prime Minister wears different hats at different times. But so does everyone. So make sure you know what these are, and control them to maintain the integrity of your organisation.

For more on my media training or crisis communication planning workshops, contact

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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