Managing Media Interviews

October 8th, 2010

InterviewLast week, I had the pleasure of joining Southwest Missouri PRSA for their annual professional development day.  The great lineup of speakers included retired Lt. Col. Joseph V. Trahan III, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA.  “Doc Joe,” a self-described Cajun, has conducted hundreds of media training classes over his 30+ years for government agencies, law enforcement, higher education and non-profits.  His background is so extensive that if I went further, it could easily take up more space than this post itself!

Keeping in mind that his seminars are typically 1-2 days, what follows is only a handful of “key” takeaways.

The three C’s of media relations…
According to Doc Joe, the three “C’s” of media relations, especially when responding to the media, are:

  • Control: He says, “If you put a microphone in my face, it’s MINE!”
  • Competence: Clear, honest, simple information. No speculation.
  • Concern: For example,“Mayor Giuliani showed concern on 9/11. For a brief shining moment we were all New Yorkers.”

For any media interview, you must be prepared. No excuses.
Research the reporter’s questions, your own questions, and breakdown the elements of the news. “Be the devil’s advocate,” says Doc Joe, when thinking about what questions may be asked and how the media may respond.  He advises to spend one hour of prep time for every minute of air time. If it’s a 3-7 minute standup, that means up to seven hours of prep time. When developing your responses, be sure to use “command messages” (aka talking points), statements/info that you work into responses that explain position, and be consistent with them.  He also provided 10 examples of “bridging” connector phrases

Take advantage of the off-camera time to meet and greet.
Correct any misinformation.  Provide a starting point (hook).  Be sure to explain any restrictions.  Doc Joe calls these SAPP:

  • Security
  • Accuracy
  • Propriety
  • Policy

 Ready for the Interview? 
Open with a 24-40 second summary – who, what, when, where and what we’re doing about it. Listen, pause, think, then talk, when responding to media. And never repeat a negative question. Remember:

  • Each statement you make should be able to stand alone.
  • “Listen for understanding and comprehension, not to await your turn to speak.” (One of my key takeaways here.)
  • Tell the truth and stick to the facts. Talk only about what you know. 

“Know your audience; visualize them; the reporter is a channel to the audience” ~Dr. Joe Trahan

Non-verbal cues during the interview are extremely important also.  So, look at the reporter, not the camera. Remain calm, but if you “choke,” ask to try it again (if it’s not a live interview, of course).  Credibility and believability are critical for the interview to be a success.

Post-Interview Best Practices
Doc Joe says, after the interview, it’s okay to ask when it will air, but avoid asking for copies – you can get it later from the station or from you media monitoring service.  The only real reason to get back to the reporter is if you owe him answers or if he has bona fide accuracy issues.

How do you manage your media interviews? Do you agree with these points? What would you add? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

Leave a Reply