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Put Your Best Foot Forward--
And Keep It Out Of Your Mouth

Managing media interviews... How to promote your agenda-- not theirs...

Article by George McKenzie
President, The


Charles Schwab said:

"I'll pay a man more for his ability to express himself than for any other ability he might possess..."

Pogo said:

"We have met the enemy, and it is is..."


Suppose you've succeeded in attracting a reporter to come out and do a story on you.  Or you've been invited to be a guest on a radio talk show. 

But now comes the hard part: making sure you talk about what you want to talk about, not what they want to talk about.

Here are the facts of life in today's pressure packed media world of shrinking staffs, stretched resources, smaller budgets and--something that has always been true--unforgiving deadlines.

    1) They won't have much time to research you or do much homework on your topic.  Today's reporters and hosts are often "a mile wide and an inch deep," meaning they know a little bit about a lot of things, but not much about anything. That's not a knock...just a fact.

    2) They'll try to find a "hook" or work an "angle" on your story. In other words, they'll try to approach your story in a way that they think will be most interesting, timely, controversial, etc., etc. After all, their job is to present a story that will attract as many viewers/listeners/readers as possible--that's what they get paid for.  Unfortunately, it may not be the message you want the viewers/listeners/readers to get about you, your event, or your company.

And then there's the worst possibility of all. Someone who's negative or even downright hostile.

Here are some quick tips:

    *Remain calm.  TV interviews tend to be especially hectic, with bright lights, floor
crew members barking instructions and giving hand-signaled time cues, and interviewers who will interrupt you if they think you're getting even slightly off track. Never argue, no matter how rude the questions seem or how much you think you're being baited or provoked.

    *Never say the words, "No comment."  You'll look like you're trying to hide something.

    *Take negative, antagonistic questions and reshape them into powerful, powerful 
messages about your company. The best techniques for doing this are rebutting,  deflecting, redirecting, bridging, and capitalizing. These are media training techniques and they're a whole separate discipline.  

    *Select a "central message" that you want to get across to viewers/listeners/readers.  Find ways during the interview to bend the conversation back towards your central message--but be subtle about it. Being crass or blatant will bring the interview to a quick end.

    *Also make sure you have several "talking points" or themes that you want to try to work into your conversation with the reporter or host.

    *Always assume you're  "on the record,"  that the microphone is still on and the camera is still rolling. Otherwise, you could find yourself horribly embarrassed by a offhand comment that you didn't think the public would ever read or hear.

    *Live broadcast interviews, of course, can't be changed.  But you can guard against inaccuracies in pre-recorded "package" reports or print stories by asking the reporter to "fact check" before airing or publication.  Ask the reporter to call you and check important facts.  Some reporters will do this in the interest of accuracy, while others won't.  Some just won't have time.

For more ideas and tips on managing media interviews, see Joan Stewart's series of Special Reports. Joan is a former newspaper editor who now consults with clients on getting free publicity--and getting positive free publicity.



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