Media training advice for Labour MP who went 'off the record'

28 June 2013
A Labour MP who went ‘off the record’ and told a TV3 reporter that David Shearer would lose the support of his Caucus if his party’s poll ratings don’t soon improve could do with some media training advice. David ShearerOur media training clients often ask us about when you should go ‘off the record’. Our advice is generally to avoid doing so. That’s the clearest answer and easiest to follow. This is partly because there are many definitions of what ‘off the record’ means. If you do decide to do this, there are some guidelines you must follow. You need to know exactly what you are agreeing to. The words ‘off the record’ can mean you are giving the reporter information that he or she promises not to use. Another definition is that you give the information, allow the reporter to use it, but not attribute it to you. The third one is to allow the reporter to use the information, and attribute it to some agreed title like 'government insider' or 'Labour MP'. From a media training perspective, you don’t want this title to be so specific that it could lead to your identification, or at least put you under suspicion. The Labour MP in question was referred to as not being a part of the pro David Cunliffe group. Clearly he or she is not close to Shearer, so that can’t leave many others. Remember there are only 33 Labour MPs. This is the point we make to our media training clients. While we don’t recommend going off the record in most situations, be clear what you are agreeing to, and make sure the reporter doesn’t narrow down the list of potential sources to place you under suspicion.

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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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