“Is that your opinion?”

In our media relations manual, there are six basic rules for media interviews; one of them is “Do not give a personal opinion.” This is critical for the spokesperson who is representing an organization be it a company public or private, a non-profit, a charity or a governmental body.

“Is that your opinion?”

A previous blog talks about executives who want to give personal opinions, for instance about the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. That blog makes the point that there is no good way to separate the personal opinions of the spokesperson from the organization he or she represents. He or she is the face of the organization and opinions can never be ‘personal.’ That means the organization must carry the load of the consequences of an expressed opinion for better or worse.

However, as they say in tech, there is a ‘work-around’ for the spokesperson who desperately wants his or her opinion to be expressed, hopefully, to as large an audience as possible. The work-around is to make the opinion that of the organization.  This means the executive with a major opinion must get advance, written approval of the Board of Directors, superiors including the CEO, fellow executives who might be affected and so on.  He or she must consider the consequences of the stated opinion on  unions, employees, partners, suppliers, resellers and customers. The point is his or her opinion must become the opinion of the organization.

In regard to less important messages, the spokesperson must be absolutely sure his or her direct superiors will support the opinion. The opinion must be the organization’s opinion, never that of the spokesperson alone.

The rules goes on: “Think ‘we’, not ‘I’ and use ‘We’ when giving an opinion to any audience including the media. “We believe the Trump Presidency will…” – not “I believe the Trump Presidency will…”  If you can’t use the word ‘We’ with certainty, don’t give the opinion.