The attorney general has just accused you of a crime. As you get out of your car to arrive for work, the cameras are rolling and an army of reporters are sticking microphones in your face, asking for your comments to the charges.

Another day at the White House? Not necessarily. That scenario is playing out more and more with plumbing contractors or anyone offering service work to the public caught in the limelight of a consumer expose.

How to deal with this new reality of your business was presented by communications consultant Bob Aronson before the latest Contractor 2000 Super Meeting XII, March 5–7, in Vancouver, Canada.

Above all, Aronson counseled the members to treat the media interview as another presentation just like you’d make before your customers or employees.

“It’s OK to be nervous,” Aronson said. “Just remember that in journalism there are no rules, except the First Amendment, which says, in effect, that there are no rules. Therefore, the only rule for you to follow is: You must be prepared. So develop a plan and stick to it.”

As with any other business presentation, Aronson advised attendees to take control from the outset. “The interview belongs to you, not the reporter,” he added. “Make sure you are working on your agenda, not theirs.”

To this end, Aronson offered the following tips to get the experience off to a winning start:

  • Interview the reporter: It’s not as odd as it sounds, just as long as you ask your questions in a cooperative manner. “Don’t argue with people that buy ink by the barrel or videotape by the mile,” Aronson said. By all means, ask what the story is about; who else they’ve interviewed; and what’s the deadline.
  • Most of these questions are designed to help you and the reporter focus on the matter at hand. But asking about deadlines might help create enough time for you to come back with a more appropriate response.
  • Create a safety net: First, you should limit the number of subjects you discuss. Next, only discuss those subjects that you are personally qualified to talk about.
  • Establish ground rules: Make sure the interview takes place where you feel comfortable. And remember: The shorter the interview, the better. “Everyone things the more they talk the more everyone will understand,” Aronson said. “But the more you talk, the more you will be edited anyway.” Tell the reporter how much time you have, not how much you need.

Aronson’s discussion was just one of several presentations put on during the three-day event, which drew a crowd of more than 300 individuals from almost 170 C-2000 member companies.

Other discussions included complaint handling and protecting your company from internal theft. Radio advertisers Jim Conlan and Bill West aired two campaigns designed exclusively for C-2000 members. And sports psychologist Jack Llewellyn presented a keynote address on “Thriving On Stress.” The conference also included a full day’s worth of discussion on financial management, including a special “Before Break-even” seminar led by PM columnist Ellen Rohr.

In addition, C-2000 unveiled its all new Customer Service & Satisfaction training, as well as introduced a new Operations Manual.

C-2000 will hold its Super Meeting XIV, Oct. 8–10, in Denver.