Media Message Mayhem – When And How To Backtrack

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By Corporate Media Services


Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, made an election eve promise not to cut funding to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

Mr Abbott then seemed to have a memory lapse, denying that promise.

The Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, weighed in with mixed messages.

Once Mr Abbott’s memory had returned, he admitted he did say there would be no cuts to the ABC and SBS,  “Of course I made that statement” he said.

Why it took so long for him to admit this is anybody’s guess.

The whole saga looked messy and ridiculous.

If you say something in the media  it’s on the record.  If you need to backtrack it may come back to haunt you.

Don’t try to make out something hasn’t been said in the media if it has. If you deny it, the media will soon jog your memory.

Journalists will simply latch on to your statement and hound you as they have done in this case.

If you’ve said something and you need to backtrack, do it as soon as possible.

For example, Tony Abbott could have said something along the lines of, “Yes…I did say there would be no cuts to the ABC or SBS but due to the state of our budget, I’m going to have to break that promise.” That’s pretty much where he wound up in the end anyway.

Pretending that something wasn’t said when there is proof it was, is a futile exercise. You’re eventually going to have to backtrack and it’s better to do that sooner rather than later.

Failing to be upfront at the beginning can do a lot more damage, as it has in this case.

It will simply keep the story going for longer and have a terrible impact on your credibility.


  • Don’t deny you’ve said something in the media when clearly you have.
  • If you’ve said something in the media and you need to backtrack, do it sooner rather than later while being conscious of any legal considerations.
  • One of the main ingredients of a successful media profile is credibility. It’s hard to gain but very easy to lose.

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