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Want to Play Hardball with the News Media?

There comes a time in the life of almost every ... its honesty, its ... and its health ... by attacks from the news ... these attacks are well ... ...

There comes a time in the life of almost every company
when its honesty, its integrity and its health are
threatened by attacks from the news media.

Frequently, these attacks are well deserved. Example:

All too often, these attacks are engineered by
antagonists (usually plaintiff attorneys or
issue-oriented activists) through all-too-willing news
reporters who are hell-bent on winning this year’s

When that time comes for you and your company, you will
have to decide: Do I want to play hardball with the
news media?

Before you even consider that question, you must take
an inventory. You must have three things in your corner
before you even consider taking on the media.

First, you must have persuasive evidence of your

In the Court of Public Opinion, you are guilty until
proven innocent. If you plan to take on the news media,
you must be prepared to present evidence that sways the
public in your favor.

“Persuasive” is not the same as “conclusive.”

Indeed, logic need not apply.

You will want “proof” that persuades the brain by
aiming at the heart.

You must also make sure that you stand on solid legal
ground. Your team should always include a legal counsel
who is media-savvy and crisis-oriented.

You want to have a lawyer on your side who is not
afraid to do battle with, in or through the media. But
your attorney should also be an expert in
communications law, particularly libel.

The attorney’s job in a Hardball PR situation is not to
steer your ship, but to help navigate your ship around
the rocks.

Second, you must have sufficient resources at your

Never go to war with the news media if you lack the
money, the time, the energy or the will to see it

You must have the cash to pay for excellent PR counsel
as well as for excellent legal counsel. You must be
prepared to support the tactics that will lead to
victory. This often includes such expensive items as
advertising and lawsuits.

Each year’s company budget should include a PR defense
fund large enough to fend off any attack, larger or

Third, you must see a recognizable gain.

Never go to war with the media if there is nothing for
you to gain by it.

In short, never fight out of spite.

Let’s say a columnist in a free alternative tabloid
makes a snotty comment about your company that is
obviously unfair and untrue. Forget about going to war
with that reporter.

It’s not worth the effort. The odds are low that anyone
among your key stakeholders saw they item. If they did,
they likely put no credence in the item.

Simply write a careful, polite letter to the editor
that refutes the comment and presents the facts. Ask
the tabloid to publish the letter. If it refuses, buy
ad space.

You do this only to get it on the record that the
comment is unfair and untrue, just in case a reporter
at a mainstream paper decides to pick up on the story.

That’s it. Leave it alone.

Keep your powder dry and save your resources for
battles that count.

In addition, there must a low risk of revealing other
bad news. The last thing you need is to fend off a
media attack on an unfair and untrue story, only to
have the media uncover a fair, true and devastating

If you have skeletons in your closetBusiness Management Articles, stay away from a
media battle.

Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

Source: Free Articles from


Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who now
coaches executives, professionals and entrepreneurs on
the use of news strategy to enhance and protect their
companies. For a free copy of the hot new ebook
“Hardball PR: How to Get Tough with Investigative
Reporters,” please visit

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