Working with Journalists
How to survive a media interview
Following are a few suggestions that will help you get ready for an interview.
Do your homework so you are knowledgeable about the issue
· Prepare your key messages before hand
· Anticipate questions and have answers ready
· Support your statements with facts, statistics, analogies, and/or expert opinion
Listen to the reporter's question
· Be alert to the reporter's intent
· If you realize later you missed a point, go back and clarify
· If you are unsure of the question, rephrase it before answering
Answer from the viewpoint of your audience
· Know who constitutes your real audience
· Avoid using industry jargon
· Take every reasonable opportunity to deliver or reemphasize your key messages
A direct question deserves a direct answer
· Don't speculate
· Refer the question to someone who can answer, or explain that you will get back to him or her later
· Always respect the reporter's deadline
If you do not want it to be quotes, don't say it
· There is no such thing as "off the record"
· "Off the cuff" statements run the risk of becoming headlines
· If an inaccurate statement is made by you or the reporter, correct it
Never say no comment
· Give a reason for not being able to comment
· It is OK to say that the information is not available at this time
Don't answer hypothetical questions
· Say you don't speculate and then speak to the real issue
· If several questions are asked at once, pick the one you want to answer
· Never argue with the reporter or lose your cool
Preparing for the eventual interview
Even if you are not currently scheduled to be interviewed by a journalist, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the day it may happen.
Watch Televison - Tune in frequently to locally produced news programs and network shows such as Nightline, 60 Minutes, Larry King Live, and Moneyline. Analyze what works and what does not. Note eye contact, key message delivery, and how guests avoid being trapped into harmful answers.
Review Newspapers - Check headlines in both business and general news and ask yourself if any of the issues could apply to your business. Then determine how well prepared you are to answer a reporter if he called with questions about that topic. Also use this time to refine your understanding of what quotes or themes journalists consider newsworthy.
Practice - An occasional question and answer session with a member of the staff or a run-through of a speech with a tape recorder can keep help get you up to speed. It is also a good idea to take a media training refresher course.