To celebrate Betty White’s birthday today, here’s a lesson PR professionals can take away from The Golden Girls: get all the facts before you talk to the media.
In the 1987 season-three episode titled “Letter to Gorbachev,” Rose Nylund (Betty) leads a troop of nine-year-old Girl Scouts. Rose is bothered that the girls are concerned about nuclear war instead of normal things nine-year-olds should worry about. So what does Rose do? She writes letters to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan, of course, asking them to put down their weapons.
Gorbachev is smitten with Rose’s letter and invites her to Moscow, but not before setting up a press conference at Blanche’s house during which Rose will read the letter. On the day of the press conference, however, the Soviet representative realizes that Rose is, well, a grown woman, and not the nine-year-old girl he thought she was based on the content of her naïve, innocent letter.
“I have two announcements to make,” says the Soviet representative to the gathered reporters. “This press conference is canceled, and I have just become the newest citizen of Miami. If you need to reach me, my name is Dave.”
Get your facts before you talk to the media. It’s a super simple lesson we sometimes forget because we’re busy, or we assume too much, or we think someone else is taking care of it. They’re all poor excuses. Like the Soviet rep, I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago: press conferences aren’t ideal for disseminating some types of news. PRNews published my hard-learned lessons as a PR Insiders column, “Press Conference Confusion: Learn From Media Relations Mistakes.”
Enjoy, and think before you act!
Good Advice! In my dealings with the press, I approached the matter as a paranoiac. I did not trust the press to interpret everything they heard accurately, so I made sure to dot every i and cross every t in preparation so that there could be no mistake in their conveying my message, either in content or intent. It worked! I also tried to write in short sentences to be more easily understood. LOL