White House press secretary Jen Psaki is modeling media relations practices in her first days at the podium that provide six lessons for just about anyone working with the press:
- Write the headline. Psaki opened with a promise to bring back “truth and transparency,” a sound bite that became the dominant coverage theme. Not only did she make a good first impression on reporters, she immediately delivered a clear and newsworthy headline for them to run with.
- Access, access, access. Psaki briefed on Inauguration Day. That’s not expected just a few hours on the job, but it sent a powerful message after daily press briefings phased out under President Trump. Whether you represent a company, a nonprofit or the U.S. president, reporters value almost nothing more than access.
- Keep your cool. She remained noncombative and respectful, understanding the usefulness to the White House’s message about the difference between information and entertainment. It’s about being polite even when you’re asked questions you don’t like, even when reporters are downright rude. It distracts from your message to take questions personally or get provoked – and only makes good TV for the reporters.
- Lift the veil. Presidential visitor logs are an important indicator of influence, and she pledged to make them public. All organizations can think about ways they can show transparency.
- Let your experts shine. Dr. Anthony Fauci kicked off Psaki’s briefing on Day 2. “It’s somewhat of a liberating feeling,” Fauci said of his ability to speak freely on the science. It builds trust and credibility to put your subject matter experts in the spotlight.
- Show respect. Psaki deftly used flattery, declaring her deep respect for the media assembled before her— always a smart move. But she also showed it in her actions. While admittedly showing a bias here as a former Associated Press White House reporter, it’s worth noting Psaki called on the AP first and last. The AP represents all media in the briefing room, so it’s a return to a time-honored and respected tradition and shows deserved respect to all the assembled press.