Whether coincidental, or as a result of the topic being thrust into mainstream media, questions about going off the record or on background have increased among our clients. What exactly does off the record mean? How does it differ from on background? We are going to explore this topic in a two-part blog feature, a D+P first!
Before we delve into the details, it is important to establish Important Rule #1: Any time you are speaking to a member of the media, you should always assume that you are on the record and that you can – and will – be quoted by name as a source of the information that you are sharing. Keeping this rule in the back of your mind can save you from a head-in-hand moment down the road.
Okay, let’s dive in…
What’s the difference between going on background vs. off the record?
Speaking to a reporter off the record means the information you share cannot be used for publication. Going on background means that the journalist can use the information you provide, but only under the conditions that you both have agreed to. You know when you read, “A source close to Kanye says he’s broke,” that means someone (read: Kris Jenner) spoke to the reporter on background.
In an off the record conversation, it’s “pencils down.” The reporter should close her notebook, turn off any recording device and just listen and talk with you. Going on background allows for the journalist to still take notes on the matter; however, her next step will be to either use the information without name attribution or find another source on the topic who does agree to be quoted.
This brings us to Important Rule #2: If you don’t want information in the media about a particular topic, don’t bring it up – period.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog series later this week!
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We are Devine + Partners, communications and content experts who specialize in public relations, issues management and digital communications.