Handling a hostile journalist?

In a time where care organisations are regularly scrutinised by the media, it’s important that you’re in a position to positively express the care levels that your organisation provides. If your CQC inspection brought up some improvement areas, you may find that the media become interested, and in an environment where the poor messages get most attention it’s important to be ready when they call.

Recently, a local press contacted a Care2Improve client following the publication of their CQC report.  The overall judgement was that the quality of care was very good, but there had been procedural and administrative items which needed improvement. The journalist started on a challenging note and our client, caught on the hop, was unprepared and felt her defensive manner could have made things worse. Fortunately, they had the results of a Care2Improve survey to hand and were able to draw on objective and independent evidence that their care was good quality, so the resulting article was very positive. But it was an unsettling experience!

So what can we learn? There are techniques you can use when the media come calling to make sure that you get the right message across! Here are a few tips:

Be Ready:

  • When you have your CQC report, think about the possible media spin and think about potential challenging questions they might ask
  • Think what positive messages you need to give and prepare those messages in advance.
  • Have them ready and available.
  • Practise on a colleague to get some feedback on how your answers come accross.
  • If you want a few moments to prepare yourself, tell the journalist that you are happy to talk to them but are in the middle of something with a client, could they call back in 5 minutes.

Be Positive

  • You are not ‘in the wrong’! Don’t adopt a defensive tone of voice.
  • Use positive language: you welcome constructive feedback; you are delighted to be able to talk to the journalist; you have an action plan in place to address the issues
  • Stress the positive elements of the report.
  • Have evidence to support what you say: eg you have employed a decorator to improve the decor; you have started a refurbishment program; you have sent staff on relevant training; you have put a revised procedure in place
  • Have objective evidence to hand of in house evaluations. Care2Improve is an excellent and easy way to achieve this.

Be Clear and Brief

  • Don’t use care sector jargon but use phrases that readers will readily understand.
  • Be brief in your answers,
  • Have structured and reasoned answers.

Manage the interview

  • Be personable and friendly; don’t let a challenging journalist bounce you into being defensive or aggressive.
  • Listen carefully to the journalist’s questions and interpret them positively.
  • Buy yourself time by asking for clarification.

Remember your evidence

  • Care2Improve survey results are independent and unbiased, so the press will be willing to use this as a source of opinion outside of your own
  • Carrying out independent surveys shows initiative and a determination to improve any areas, this act alone reflects a positive message
  • If you run follow up surveys you can use the positive increments in results to show your commitment to progress

With these tips in mind, you no longer have to panic that a CQC report could leave you unprepared and defenceless, and put you in an assertive and progressive frame of mind. With a bit of prior preparation you could even turn the situation to a positive PR message for your organisation!