5 Steps to Handling the Media

February, 2010

Hawaii presentation coach Pam Chambers offers five steps to successfully speaking to the media without feeling you’ll have to leave town the next day.

1. Take charge of the interview

Don’t give all the control to the reporter, or you may not get to say what you need to say. To make sure you get your message across, know your “must-air” points so you can speak directly on that subject. If several people from your company are going to be interviewed, agree in advance on your message so everyone is saying the same thing.

2. Think damage-control

When dealing with bad news, identify your most dreaded question or questions in advance, and craft your answers. As soon as you anticipate the media will be calling, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing they can ask?” and then, “What’s my answer going to be?”

3. Prepare in advance

If you know about the inter-view ahead of time, prepare questions in advance for the interviewer.

That way at least you’ll have some input into the conversation. The interviewer may not use all of your questions but may use some.

4. Start your answer with the question

When you respond to a reporter’s question, include the question in the answer. If there’s a complete sound bite, it’s more likely going to serve your purpose than just to have a phrase hanging in midair. At the same time, if there are negative words in the question, do not include them in your answer.

5. Use short sentences and avoid jargon

All media, and especially TV, want sound bites, often around 30 seconds. When you answer, look at the interviewer and not the camera, and smile at the beginning and end, even if your message is deadly serious. You can be serious when you’re involved in the interview.

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Beverly Creamer