Effective management of health and safety programs: a practical guide, 3rd edition. Moser R Jr., ed. Berverly Farms, MA: OEM Press, 2008 Mar; :337-350
Regardless of their wishes, many health and safety managers have to deal with representatives of the media. How well this interaction is accomplished may impact, either negatively or positively, the health and safety unit and the organization it serves. The following information is intended to assist in responding to media needs. BUILDING THE COMMUNICATION PYRAMID: Most health and safety professionals are trained in a particular style of communication. This is reflected in the way technical papers are written. In these papers, first there is a literature review that provides background to justify the research, ideally summarized in an articulated problem and a testable hypothesis. Next, the methods and materials are presented to give the reader a sense of how the data were collected and what technical biases might have been operational and how they were addressed. This is followed by a detailed discussion of the results and some alternative interpretations. Occasionally, but all too seldom, the authors critique their own work with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the research and the respective implications of each of the findings. The borrom-Iine message, the conclusion, is saved for the final paragraph. This has been compared to building a pyramid. Each layer is placed upon the firm foundation of the previous one. Only when everything is in place, is the final point made. The process is one of nurturing the readers to the same conclusion as that derived by the authors. In communicating with the news media, it is often advisable to invert the pyramid: provide a summary of the findings and the conclusion in the first statement, the first paragraph - and then justify this statement with supporting data, interpretations, and references. KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER IN COMMUNICATING WITH THE NEWS MEDIA: Reporters Like to Deal with the Source - Journalists want to talk to the scientist who made the discovery, the manager who made the decision, the person responsible. They prefer not to deal with "official media contact persons," the public relations specialists. And they definitely do not like to talk to an organization through its lawyers - unless the story involves a high-profile trial (and usually not even then). If your organization is to be properly represented in the news, at some point you likely will be the best person to provide the interview.