THE DO’S AND DONT’S OF RESPONDING TO JOURNALISTS
When a journalist calls requesting an interview about you or your company – what do you do? Chances are there is a moment or two of panic.
For even the most experienced public speakers the idea of being interviewed can be terrifying but, refusing to speak to a journalist is never the answer. At best it’s a lost opportunity, at worst it’s a major PR mistake that can irreparably damage your reputation.
So, how do you protect yourself while maximising the media opportunity to promote you and your brand?
As a journalist who has spent more than 25 years covering corporate and political scandals, environmental disasters, high-profile court cases, and controversial exclusives, I can tell you “no comment” is not the answer.
The worst thing you can do when dealing with a crisis is be silent. Another massive mistake so many corporations and businesses make is issuing a written release that says no comment.
Why? Because you’re giving away your best opportunity to try to ensure a balanced, fair report. “No comment” means you and your organisation come across as defensive and all too often that silence is perceived as arrogance and implied guilt.
So, what do you do and what don’t you do when the media calls?
Always provide comment
By providing a comment you’re making sure the public is hearing your key message and getting a fair understanding of the situation. If you don’t tell your side you’re allowing the media and the public to fill in the blanks.
Make sure you’re prepared
Ask the journalist lots of questions: What program or publication will my comments appear in? What’s the angle of the story ? Who else is being interviewed?
Respect the reporter’s deadline
Reporters are even more time poor than they use to be. If you work with the reporter you may find they’ll be more willing to highlight your key messages.
Provide background information
Talk to the media about what has occurred. This helps their story and yours. Make sure you give them accurate facts to ensure a fair report.
Identify your key messages and practice them
Remember your key messages and make sure you know them off by heart. This will make sure that the journalist won’t catch you off guard or steer you off topic.
Present in a calm, confident, and concise manner
This can be hard to do. However, the more prepared you are the better. If you’re not confident you can nail a media interview then I’d suggest media training.
This seems like a given, but so many times I’ve had spokespeople answering questions in distracting patterns and unironed shirts.
Always thank the reporter for their time
It’s just nice manners. Plus it keeps everyone happy.
Use interview techniques to manage hostile or tricky questions
Say “no comment”
Please don’t say “no comment”. It’s honestly the worst thing you can do in a crisis situation. It makes you and your brand look like you have something to hide.
Be hostile or argumentative
Remember how I said to present in a calm and confident manner? Being hostile or argumentative can make you look nervous and guilty.
Speculation may lead you to say something that is untrue or harmful to your reputation. It’s best just to avoid forming theories you don’t have evidence to support.
Be led by the journalist’s agenda
Learn to protect yourself from going off message. If you need Adoni Media’s training sessions can help you take control of the interview.
Lie or give false statistics
Giving a false report of facts not only taints a fair report being written or aired, but it makes you and your company look bad when the truth comes out.
By Leisa Goddard