How Do I Handle a Media Scrum?
A scrum is an informal interview with a group of reporters who normally gather around the person they interview. It's very common in politics and sports to have a scrum with newsmakers. This way the person being interviewed can make a statement once and it’s covered by a number of reporters. That’s the upside. There can be a real downside to facing a pack of reporters if you’re not experienced in dealing with the media.
I always recommend that when you think you will be a scrum situation to find something like a wall or fence to stand up against. Although you may feel like this traps you, it actually serves to keep all reporters and camera operators in front and beside you and doesn't allow them to get behind you. If you allow reporters to get behind you when they ask questions it becomes difficult to answer them because of where they are. If you turn in their direction to speak to them, chances are the cameras and microphones won’t be able to record your response well. It’s always much easier to be able to look at reporters and keeping them in front or beside you allows this to happen.
If you get a question from a reporter to your left, turn at a 45° angle and look at that reporter while you are giving the response. If somebody from your right asks a question, turn facing that reporter and give him or her your answer. This allows you to take control of the scrum. In simple terms, it also allows you to turn each question you get and response you give into a one-on-one discussion. This is similar to doing an interview with one journalist, so basically think of a scrum as several one-on-one conversations and not you against the world. There's no need to worry about TV cameras, because it's your job to look at the reporter who asked you the question as you give your response.
If you don't have a wall or fence around, try to politely shepherd the reporters into areas where they’re in front of you. This isn't always possible, but it's worth a shot. When you see the possibility of being the main subject in a scrum, try to take a moment to analyze the situation before agreeing to talk to reporters. This is where you can ask them to stand in front or beside you. After they have, prepare to answer the first question.
Don’t worry about being trapped, because if reporters are finished asking their questions and you thank them for their time, both they and their camera operators will move to let you go. They’re used to doing this and understand you need to get on with your day.
Remember that even though you have given your response to what seems like the last question, you’re still on record and movements are being recorded on video, so don’t do anything you’ll regret.