When I was the public relations manager in the 1980’s for an L.A.-based hospital, media relations was my world. No one in the organization talked to the press without first talking to me. Doctors, nurses, administrators—everyone sent those press calls my way. Life was good.
Then I went to work for local government where the media free-for-all ensued. As I soon came to understand (and believe), it really is better to have trained, authentic voices in the organization singing our messages to the media, but these would-be spokespeople still need to be singing off my song sheets! And that means they need some training and, yes, rules! I give you:
Gail’s Top 10 Media Rules to Live by
- Give yourself ample time to prepare in advance for your media interview. Resist the urge to immediately respond just because you were called for an interview (but keep the reporter’s deadline in mind as well).
- Prepare talking points/statements in advance of your interview with well thought-out statements that you want to make. Then, do not deviate from them.
- Anticipate tough questions and be ready with an answer that has been vetted. Don’t ever get mad when the questions get tough!
- You can’t be quoted on something you didn’t say. Keep to your script and picture what you want (and don’t want) to read on-line tomorrow morning.
- Keep your answers short and to the point; do not go off on long-winded stories or background information.
- Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions. Do not assume you know what they are going to ask—you may be surprised.
- It is OK to use relevant examples and imagery that include descriptive analogies and information that is brief and relevant.
- Avoid using a lot of statistics or numbers. More than one or two is hard to track and, often times, you lose your reader and end up not making the point you want to make.
- Be aware that a reporter may ask you the same question in a different way to get the response they are looking for. Listen carefully to the questions and don’t be afraid to repeat your original, prepared answer.
- You are never, ever off the record. Don’t go there. Even a well-meaning reporter can mix up what was said “on” or “off” the record.