Just look at what happened to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was dumb enough to let an investigative freelancer for Rolling Stone into his inner circle and conduct a tape-recorded interview—over drinks.
But you need to be on your guard even if you aren’t being interviewed, and booze and reporters are present. Many people incorrectly assume that if they don’t see a reporter scribbling in a notebook, the interview, or anything they say, is off the record. Assume that everything you say in front of journalists is on the record, or don’t say it.
Loose lips sink ships.
1. After-work networking events
The media sometimes attend these events, often hosted by the local chamber of commerce. Smart reporters know how to make nice with you and get you talking. If you aren’t holding a drink in your hand, and you’re busy prattling on about your business, they can slyly lead you to the bar and offer you a drink.
2. Events hosted by the media
Business journals and other business magazines generate a large portion of their revenue from these events, and reporters and editors are everywhere. It’s a great chance to schmooze with the media, but only if you aren’t drinking.
3. Local and national Press Club dinners and special events
Reporters and editors have a well-deserved reputation for boozing it up at Press Club dinners and awards ceremonies. I recommend that anyone who wants publicity consider attending these events, often open to the public, because you can establish valuable relationships with the media—sober.
4. Trade shows
If you’re attending a trade show, you should do your homework and touch base with reporters who you know will be at the show so you can meet them for coffee, offer your expertise and find out what they need from you. Beware, however, of evening cocktail parties hosted by the trade show’s sponsor, where food and booze are plentiful.
5. Conferences and conventions the media cover
6. Fund-raisers and black-tie dinners
7. The “lunch” or “dinner” interview.
What situations can you add to this list? If you’re a PR person, what advice do you give to your clients?