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Media Work

Houston, we have a problem! How to deal with false media coverage about your company.

Imagine negative and false information being reported about your organisation in the media. Do you know how to handle it?

Please reach out to the journalist by phone and email as soon as possible. The first rule is to keep your emotions under control during the phone call. Prepare well for the phone call. Make key points and take a deep breath before you start the call.

Speak to them in a factual and friendly manner and clarify any misunderstandings. Point out the error clearly and provide the correct information. Ask for factual corrections. If possible, cite sources. Corrections are possible online and in the next print edition of the medium.

Important: document the phone call by email afterwards and confirm what was discussed.

Please don’t discuss this discussion publicly, i.e. via social media or in a press release, to correct the issue with the journalist. This could only worsen the situation and create a community unwillingly involved. You run the risk of damaging your company’s reputation.

Internal communication and clarification of competencies

Also, check where the journalist’s false information came from. Were they internal errors, i.e. false statements were made, or is what was written based on assumptions or research into unverifiable correct sources? If internal sources have made false statements to the outside world, it is advisable to sharpen the PR department’s areas of expertise once again. ‘Who talks to the media’.

Using public relations for reputation management

The aim should be to protect your company’s reputation. In the case of critical issues that could potentially impact the share price of a listed company, you should have the case examined by a lawyer specialising in media law. However, legal action should only be taken if the false information significantly damages the company’s reputation or causes financial loss. It is crucial to note that you should observe the case law in reporting and the press codes.

What is the Press Code?

The Journalistic Principles (Press Code) is a collection of basic journalistic and ethical rules presented by the German Press Council in 1973. Publishers and journalists consented to the journalistic principles formulated by their associations. The 16-point press code sets the guidelines for journalistic work, from respect for human dignity to the presumption of innocence, from protecting victims to separating advertising and editorial work. It forms the basis for assessing complaints submitted to the Press Council.

Documentation – information – relationship management

  • Document all communication (including date and time/telephone calls) with the journalist from the outset
  • Inform the management or the board of directors about the process
  • Use social media to disseminate factually correct information

Particularly important: despite the challenging situation, try to strengthen your relationship with the journalist, as you will need to continue interacting with them in the future.