All of your well-placed media information efforts may result in contact from the media. Media interviews provide an excellent opportunity to develop credibility and a strong professional image for your organization and its programs.
Here are some guidelines to ensure a positive working relationship:
- Always promptly return a reporter’s phone call
- Be attentive to the reporter’s demands and help them meet their deadlines
- Have additional facts handy
- Suggest additional knowledgeable people (and phone numbers). You may increase your chances of getting your story on the air or published if you can tell the station where to reach a second spokesperson (from a different organization).
- Have willing, informed and prepare staff on hand to be spokespersons
- Be ready at any time. Media requests almost never come at preferred times.
- Everything you say can be quoted. Parts of sentences – even words or sentence fragments that are totally out of context – can be used.
Take Time To Prepare
- Plan up to three main messages you want to get across during the interview
- Think of ways to explain in ways that are easy to understand such as analogies
- Don’t stress out. Most interviews are very easy and over very quickly
- Remember: You are the expert, that is why they want to talk to you
- Prepare any evidence or examples.
- Try to think of possible questions and how you will answer
During the Interview
- It will go by surprising fast- get your main points across right away
- To increase your chances of being quoted, particularly for broadcast media, talk in colorful language and use bold, short, catchy statements (“sound bites”)
- Listen carefully to the question and take your time to formulate an answer; an example or analogy may be used to clarify your answer.
- Be concise and keep your language simple (no jargon), as though you were explaining to your neighbor. If needed, it is ok to stop and rephrase your answer.
- Explain how your issues affect people.
- Volunteer important information. You don’t have to wait for the reporter to ask.
- If you feel strongly about the issue, don’t be afraid to let your feelings show.
- Always tell the truth, do not fudge or hedge. If you aren’t authorized to give certain information, connect them with the person who is.
- If complete information is not yet available, tell the reporter when you expect to have that information and follow through.
- Don’t use “no comment” or “I’m not going to speculate” as it implies that you have something to hide.
- If you don’t have the answer to a question, get back to them with the answer (keeping deadlines in mind).
- Don’t say anything “off the record” or “off-microphone” as there is no guarantee these comments will remain confidential.
- Wear plain, neutral colors with simple accessories; your “look” shouldn’t distract from your content. For technical reasons, avoid wearing solid white.
- Practice your key points in simple, direct language.
- Don’t start the interview until you are physically comfortable, check that your chair is stable and won’t rock or swivel unexpectedly.
- Speak to the interviewer, not the camera.
- Double check the time, arrive early if you are interviewing in-studio, be clear about who calls whom if it’s a phone interview.
- Don’t use an intercom phone or mobile phone - the sound gets distorted
- When doing a telephone interview don’t speak straight into the mouth piece - keep it a bit away from your mouth and don’t move the phone around because the noise will transfer
- Do the interview in a quiet area-close your door.
- Don’t worry about voice. You don’t need a professional, velvet voice. But it helps to have your explanations concise and organized.
- Be sure to thank the reporter
- Give him or her your number in case of further questions
- Ask when to expect the interview to appear in the paper/radio/TV
- Expect he occasional error or misquote-complain only if it is terribly serious, and if then start with the reporter and move your way up, if need be.
If you are pleased with a resulting story, feel free to call and thank the reporter or send a note through email or mail. This makes you stand out!