Media Interviews and Relationships

The 10 Tips for Successful Media Relations

1. If you don’t know, don’t make it up. Never speculate, and never lie. It is entirely acceptable to say, “I’m not quite sure about that, but I’ll find out for you and get back to you.”  Ask the reporter what the deadline is.

2. Go into the interview with you own agenda. Know what you want to say and make your
points.

3. Don’t be intimidated. You are in control of the situation, not the reporter. You have the
answers.

4. Don’t get angry or talk down to reporters. Reporters are looking for an angle and some
questions may be designed to provoke you. Answer calmly. Likewise, some questions will be outright stupid. We all have our moments…let this one pass without comment.

5. Never speak off the record. There is no such thing. Operate as though the
camera/microphone is always on and know that they can broadcast or print everything you say.

6. Keep your responses simple and to the point.

7. Always give them something in writing that includes our name,  and phone number

8. Don’t ask to read an article or watch a show before it is scheduled to be aired.

9. Avoid saying, “I feel” and instead say “_____ feels”.

10. Wear something that identifies your organization or use back drop with your organization’s name or website address.

Types of Interviews

Television

Ask the reporter before the interview what the subject will be and the approximate length
of the interview.
Fax the interviewer information on the topic you will be discussing.

Make a list of some points you want to say. Write down your thoughts.

Practice giving responses. A typical sound bite is 10-20 seconds.

Make sure you know your statistics and keep them simple.

Arrive at the station 15 minutes early.

Do not wear white!

Do wear more makeup than usual.

Sit up straight, leaning slightly forward and find a good place for your hands. Act
naturally, just as if you are in conversation with the interviewer. Feel free to use your
hands when you speak if this is something you normally would do.

Talk to the reporter as he or she is setting up the lights and testing the sound. Establish a
comfort level.

Smile when appropriate.

Look at the reporter, not the camera, unless directed to do otherwise.

Get ready for the bright lights, and try not to squint.

If you stumble over your words, it’s normal. It’s okay to say “Let me clarify that,” and
start over.

Watch the “um’s”, the “likes” and the “you know’s”.

When you have made your point, stop talking. If the reporter doesn’t ask you another
question then you can make another point about the question.

Don’t say anything anywhere near the studio/camera/reporter that you wouldn’t want on
air. There is always the possibility that the microphone is still on.

Print

If there is time you can fax the interviewer information on the topic you will be
discussing.
Make a list of some points you want to convey about the subject matter. Write down
your thoughts. This interview will exist “out there” for a long time-so be prepared.

Practice giving responses. Newspaper interviews allow for more in depth discussion.

Make sure you know your statistics, and always provide them in writing to the reporter.

Don’t give them anything you don’t want to see printed.

Say what you mean. Sarcasm, humor, and wit don’t translate well in print.

Be prepared for the reporter to call you after the interview and ask you more questions.
Make sure you give them daytime and evening phone numbers.

If you realize after the interview that you’ve provided misinformation, correct it
immediately.

Radio

Fax the interviewer information on the topic you will be discussing.
Make a list of some points you want to cover. Write down your thoughts.

Practice giving responses. A typical sound bite is 10-15 sounds or less.

Make sure you know your statistics and keep them simple.

Arrive at the station 15 minutes early.

Watch the tone of your voice, it’s all the audience has.

Don’t breathe, sneeze, clear your throat, etc. into the microphone.

Keep your responses simple, simple, simple. Long, detailed answers will be lost on your
audience.

If you stumble over your words, it’s normal. It’s okay to say “Let me clarify that” and
start over.

Watch the “um’s”, the “likes” and the “you knows”.

When you have made your point, stop talking. If the reporter doesn’t ask you another
question then you can make another point about the question.
Don’t say anything anywhere near the studio/camera/reporter that you wouldn’t want on
air. There is always the possibility that the microphone is still on.

If a reporter calls and wants an immediate response, provide the information but don’t be
afraid to ask for a few seconds to locate the information.

The Interview: The Three P’s of a Successful Interview

Preparation

Never go into an interview without being prepared
Know your audience-whom you’re speaking to. Speak to that audience.

Know your subject and have statistics to make your point.
Presentation

Be assertive. Be professional. Be self-assured. A false modesty will undermine the
confidence of the reporter and his acceptance of your message.
Be honest. Don’t bend the truth.

Keep your answers brief. Too much information can confuse the reporter who might
then overlook the main point that you want to make. Be sure you focus on the main point
that you want to make.

Admit it if you don’t know an answer. “I don’t know” is a legitimate response.

Beware of manipulation. Some reporters may ask you something like “Would you
say…”or “In your opinion…” and then offer an idea for your agreement or disagreement.
Make your own statement instead of following the reporters agenda.

Physical Presentation

Be likeable. That’s how you get on TV. Do not scowl. Do not be boring.

Keep “an open face”. Your voice follows your face, so an expression on your face also
lends meaning to what you say.

Body language. Watch what you are saying with your body. Sit upright or lean forward
slightly, indicating alertness. Keep your arms and legs relaxed-don’t fidget.
Eye contact is important. Look directly at your interviewer and not into the camera
unless they tell you to look in a camera.

Do not cover your face with your hands or touch your lips while speaking.

Take deep breaths to relax yourself before beginning to speak. Speak slowly and with
enthusiasm.

Take two or three seconds before you answer a question – don’t cut the media off. Think
ahead while they are asking the question, but always let them finish. Think at the
beginning about what your answer will be-how it fits in with what you want to say.

Try to keep the pitch of your voice on the low side.

Look professional. Avoid distracting jewelry (dangling earrings, etc.)