The day has come and you have decided to speak or meet with a journalist. You prepared, learned about the reporter and are ready to be interviewed as an expert on a topic, industry or key issue. We all have heard and read stories about interviews going wrong, or about a soured relationship with a reporter. Here are some things that the media often complain about and that you may be doing without realizing that you are hurting yourself.
Getting too friendly. Many journalists are very nice people who are great dinner companions. They are usually naturally curious and well read. During an interview, they want you to relax and speak openly, and if they are unfriendly, you will not open up to them. But never forget, journalists are on the clock and have a job to do. They are not your friends (unless, of course they are actually your friends – more on that in a separate article). You should be mindful of asking them to treat you differently or to assume that because of a friendly relationship that they won’t work to get you to say more than you intended.
Taking a whimsical off-the-record approach. “Oh, that was off the record” is not a phrase that reporters take seriously. You should never consider this as a safe back-up plan if you happen to let slip something you should not have said. Reporters take their jobs seriously and when you agree to speak with them, you are, by all accounts, on the record. This means that when you offer an opinion that is nice, or not, talk about your current or former employer, mention a business or personal relationship, you can expect to see or hear these comments in an upcoming story.
Asking to see the story before it prints. Kudos to the many journalists who hear this request and tactfully decline. This plea makes reporters prickly and they will think that you are out of touch with how the media actually works. No matter the topic, from personal finance, health and fitness to an investigative piece, journalists are bound by their own code of conduct and will not show any outsiders a story before it hits the public domain.
There are many rules of engagement when it comes to working with the media. It is imperative that you understand how the press works from their perspective. Journalists play a critical role in bringing the public valuable information on a range of topics. Respecting their work and establishing mutually respectful relationships with the media will not only help them, it will help you, your business and any cause you choose to advocate.