Fearing fallout from a media interview? 5 DMO do’s and don’ts

Man sitting in chair
Kelly Cubbon

20 August 2020

Media interviews reward the prepared. Use these tips to ace your DMO’s next media appearance. 

With today’s rapid and often volatile news cycle, the risks and anxieties of being misrepresented in the media, despite your best intentions, are real. The good news is, you’re not alone. 

Here’s how a communications team member at a destination marketing organization (DMO) that we work with described the challenge: 

“Our number one struggle is to ensure that our messaging reflects all locals, including business owners, residents, and tourism employees. This has resulted in very vague messaging from us. We have tourism operators who don’t care where people come from – they just want their businesses to stay busy. On the other hand, we have residents who feel strongly that people from out of the province shouldn’t be visiting.”

We’ve observed several challenges that make media interviews particularly difficult in tourism. As a destination marketing professional, you might fear an interview’s potential fallout and its impact on your destination. Will the media outlet provide appropriate context and nuance to represent your situation accurately? That lies beyond your control.

Your stakeholder environment is also complex. Balancing a diverse set of stakeholder needs, resident opinions, and visitor expectations is a challenge at the best of times. And tourism is under increased scrutiny right now. DMOs worldwide have struggled to adapt to changing regulations while prioritizing public health and supporting tourism businesses to open when it is safe to do so. 

Gain confidence for your next media interview with these tips from our Chief Strategist William Bakker. 

Media interview do’s and don’ts for DMOs

Tip #1: Do write down your talking points 

Know what you want to say, understand your message, and have your talking points ready. An example of a talking point might be: “We’re working to build success in the tourism industry while staying responsible and following guidelines.”

Tip #2: Do stick to the facts

Reference current government and health regulations, and encourage your community and tourism operators to follow them. Make it clear that you’re doing everything you can to keep people safe based on what is known. Be in the habit of directing people to official sources so they can find recent updates. When you don’t know the answer, don’t guess or speculate. Stick to the facts.

Tip #3: Do stay cool under pressure

If your message is misunderstood, deal with the fallout swiftly and directly. Stick to your talking points, stay strong and remain true to the facts. It could be useful to keep notes about your intended message, the time and date you gave the interview, the date it was published, and key events or announcements that may have influenced how your message was received. 

Tip #4: Don’t make it about you

There is no need to pontificate, be a pundit, or provide your personal opinion. Don’t publicly question local authorities, or you could get yourself tangled up in debates that distract from and even discredit your good work.  

Tip #5: Don’t feel obligated to be the industry spokesperson every time 

Some issues are politically challenging. Don’t assume you need to be the spokesperson for everything related to tourism. For example, suppose local tourism businesses are loudly demanding permission to reopen during the pandemic. In that case, it might be more appropriate for business owners or industry associations to make a statement instead. Consider forwarding media requests like these to your contacts, or suggest to the news outlet that one of your stakeholders joins the interview.

Media interviews can be intimidating. By preparing well, understanding your role, sticking to the facts and remaining calm under pressure, your DMO can make the most of them.

Support for your DMO

From Bermuda to California to Campbell River, our team helps tourism destinations respond to crises and work toward recovery with poise and confidence. Speak to us to learn about our collaborative approach to strategy, communications, and creative solutions or click here to send us your RFP.

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