Our phone rings /vibrates when a client or prospect either wants to make news or learns he or she is about to become news. With our staff of former reporters and government press secretaries, we are familiar with both scenarios and had success navigating clients through each one.
In this blog we will cover preparing for the “gotcha” or reactive moment.
A reporter calls – or shows up – and wants an interview on something in which you are involved. Your brain freezes. You realize this interview will affect your reputation or the reputation of your company/organization – for the good or otherwise. So what do you do?
Over the years, our knowledgeable staff has helped hundreds learn to work effectively with the news media. Here are just a few of the tips we tell our clients as they prepare:
- Ask questions. Before you agree to an interview, you have the right to know the subject of the story, who else is being interviewed, where the interview will take place and generally, what types of questions you will need to answer.
- Prepare your thoughts. The reporter needs you, so this is your opportunity to communicate your messages, and not simply answer his/her questions. Determine what you’re going to say, how to say it and, during the interview, when to say it.
- Speak in human terms. What does this mean to real people? You don’t want to sound like a robot.
- If you don’t know the answer, say so. Offer to help find the answer if possible.
- Tell the truth.
- When you’ve said what you want to say, stop talking and listen. This is a two-way conversation. Don’t feel like you have to fill up silence by continuing to talk.
- Forget “off the record.” Everything you say – from the time the reporter walks into the room until the time he/she leaves should be considered “on the record.”
- Be sensitive to their deadlines. While you should allow yourself time to prepare, respect the fact that the reporter has deadlines for TV, radio, newspaper, blog, etc.
- If you say something in error, stop yourself and correct it. If this happens after an interview, call the reporter and let him or her know.
- Stay calm. How you respond can be more powerful than the words used in the response.