DNA PR & Publicity provide media training for the management teams of some of Teesside’s most high-profile businesses. Director Dave Allan – who spent 17 years leading Middlesbrough Football Club’s media operations – provides a few do’s and don’ts of media interviews…
Most of us are inexperienced at being interviewed by the media – and it’s probably not in the job description.
But if your business becomes news – whether it’s good or bad news – speaking professionally whilst in the media spotlight is a crucial aspects of your communications.
Facing the press is the responsibility of senior management – and putting your head in the sand and hoping they’ll go away is not the answer!
But there are common pitfalls that should be avoided when speaking to the media.
1. Don’t read out a written statement – or refer to notes
This NEVER works, so don’t do it. It’s very hard not to sound robotic when reading out a statement – and if it’s a TV interview, constantly looking down to read your statement or notes looks terrible – and could make viewers and the reporter think your words are insincere.
2. Don’t try to be word perfect
So many people make this mistake. They write down their key messages, they practice what they want to say – and then they get hung up about saying every word in exactly the same order as they had written them. Unless it’s a very short answer, getting it word perfect in one take is a tough ask of anyone, so you’re likely to find yourself stumbling and stuttering your way through your key messages, too busy trying to remember every word you’d practised, instead of simply getting over the key points. It’s far more important to be yourself!
3. Avoid industry jargon
Unless your audience is knowledgeable about your industry (which the general public are very unlikely to be) then giving technical answers is a sure-fire way to alienate listeners and leave them wondering what on earth you’re talking about. Every sector has jargon – but it’s best to leave your KPI’s, helicopter views and reverse vision for those within the industry. Keep it simple.
4. Keep your answers short and punchy
Keep your answers relatively brief and to the point. TV and radio reporters want sound-bites, not monologues. Unless it’s live, your answers will probably be edited anyway, and they are looking for short, sharp, snappy quotes.
5. Never give “no comment” as your answer
Resist any temptation to answer even the most difficult question in this way. It will make you sound arrogant or, worse still, like you’ve got something to hide. Try to explain why you can’t answer or that you’re not in a position to answer that question at the present time.
6. Don’t talk bull***t!
People aren’t stupid and will know when you’re waffling. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so!
7. Keep calm
If your business is under the spotlight from the media, reporters have every right to put you under a bit of pressure by firing tough questions at you, some of which you may feel are unfair or deliberately provocative. Don’t bite! Getting rattled or losing your temper during a media interview will make any situation far worse. Remain calm, composed and reasoned.
Tees Business co-editor Dave Allan is director of Middlesbrough-based DNA PR & Publicity, who specialise in public relations, media releases, feature writing and media training.