- Stay On Message
Give concise, to-the-point answers (Use your talking points!!). Go into an interview with two or three points you wish to make – then make them, no matter what questions are asked. Get to key messages by ‘bridging’ to your answers—turning the question around and returning to your point.
- Listen To The Questions Asked (Even if the Question is Asked of Someone Else)
Ask a reporter to clarify what he or she means if you don’t understand a question. If necessary, take time to think about an answer before you give it. Also, it’s important to look at and address the person who is speaking to you.
- Be YOURSELF
Feel free to be enthusiastic, motivated, or passionate about what you’re talking about. Be friendly, be natural, be yourself. When you’re comfortable and confident, it’ll show.
- Be Accessible
If you’re going to work with the media, you’re going to have to accept that reporters live by the deadline. That doesn’t mean you have to do an interview unprepared, though. Set a time to talk that will meet both the needs of the reporter and your own needs as well.
- Keep Up Appearances
Be aware of your body language – do not fidget, drum your fingers, play with your jewelry, or act nervous. Dress appropriately for the occasion and for your audience.
It’s not silly to practice! Stand in front of a mirror and pretend to answer questions while using your talking points. Ask yourself the questions you think will be asked by the reporter (and those you hope will not be asked – remember to bridge to your message!), so you feel prepared to answer.
- Feel Free to Bring Notes AND to Take Notes
Do not bring in a statement and read from it. However, it is acceptable to have a few note cards with some key points or facts you want to get right. And, whenever possible, take notes during an interview, especially a phone interview. Make a list of information you promised to provide, or simply jot down some questions you felt you had difficulty answering.
- Provide Written Background Information
It is very helpful to send a reporter some information in advance to help reporters to better grasp the subject matter you’ll be talking about. This will help better position you and the organization in the final story. Advocates’ web site has almost all of our publications available on the web to help accomplish this!
- Respect Deadlines
Follow up with the reporter!! Ask when the reporter needs the information, then make sure you get back by that time. Tie up lose ends, get promised background/ supplemental information into the reporter's hands in a timely manner.
- Remember “Repetition equals Retention”
You can not repeat your key message too often. It’s said that your audience may need to be informed of your key messages as many as seven times for the information to sink in!
- Use professional jargon or acronyms
Keep your message simple, but not condescending. Even though terms like “HHS,” “AMA,” or “GLBTQ” may seem very familiar to you, don’t assume the reporter will know what you mean.
- Say ‘No Comment’
This can make you seem unresponsive, or, worse yet, evasive or guilty! If it is a question you don’t want to answer, use it as an opportunity to bridge to a question you DO want to answer!
- Go ‘Off The Record’
NEVER go off the record unless you have known the reporter for a very long time and you trust him or her. NEVER speak off the record for the electronic media. If you don’t want a statement quoted, don’t say it!
- Lie, Embellish, Or Generalize
You WILL be caught. Honesty and credibility are valuable – once you lose either, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
- Be Defensive Or Lose Your Temper
You lose control of an interview if you respond in kind to what you perceive as a personal attack. On the other hand, it is okay to object to a line of questioning you believe to be unfair or that asks you to reveal personal information.
- Let Inaccurate Statements Go Unchallenged
If you feel a reporter has made a mistake or ‘put words in your mouth,’ correct it immediately, or, if necessary, even after the interview is over.
- Feel Pressured To Fill An Awkward Silence
It’s a little trick reporter’s will use to make you say something stupid – because when people try to fill the silence, they aren’t thinking as clearly and are more apt to say something unplanned. Don’t fall in the trap!
- Be Afraid To Say ‘I Don’t Know’
It’s fine as long as you also say “I will find out the answer and make sure to get back to you.” If it is a question you cannot answer, say so and direct the reporter to another source of information. Just don’t use it too often!