Sharon Berman and I recently attended a media training boot camp organized by Tom Jordan, a news anchor and reporter in San Diego whose company is solely devoted to teaching professionals how to make the most out of any news interview. Since Berbay is always looking for better ways for our clients to communicate with the media, we attended the four-hour session and learned the essentials of communicating your most important messages, and effective tactics for handling the media. We’ve summarized some take-aways below:
- Media Basics – Sometimes we need a reminder that publicity molds public opinion and, according to Opinion Research Corporation, news carries more weight than ads. The range for worth of a neutral or positive news item varies from three to ten times the value of an ad. As Tom states, “This doesn’t mean advertising should be ignored. Not everything a company does is news.”
- Off-the-record – We’ve said it before, and we will say it again: Nothing is off the record! Even if you tell the reporter it’s off-the-record, or if a reporter says it’s off-the-record, it’s not. Also, be careful of what you say in ear shot of reporters. Oftentimes, reporters are trained to listen-in on “small talk” before or after an interview. And speaking of “small talk” – never small talk with a reporter about anything you wouldn’t want to see in print. It is good to establish a rapport with a reporter or news anchor, but you must always be cautious about what you say to them.
- Quoting out of context – Being quoted out of context is avoidable. Many times, a reporter asks a question and the interviewee’s answer to the question is far too long. This requires the reporter or news anchor to use 5 to 10 seconds, out of your 1 to 2 minute response. To avoid this, your response should always be 20 seconds or less for a print interview, and 10 seconds or less for a TV interview. As Tom mentioned, there are three answers to every question:
- “Here’s the answer to the question” – in 10 or 20 seconds.
- “I don’t know but I will find out” – make sure you do find out and let the reporter know as soon as possible.
- “I know but I can’t say because…” Replying with “no comment” implies guilt and can tarnish a reputation.
Other important points we were glad to hear from a seasoned news man:
- There’s value to getting into smaller news outlets because larger outlets keep their eyes on smaller ones for story ideas.
- Preparation, as with anything, is key.
- Learn how to bridge from the question to the story you want to tell, e.g., “Sam, that’s still unclear, but what I do know is…”
These are just a few of the tips from Tom Jordan’s media boot camp that can ensure a smooth interview and result in a final product that you are proud of. Do you have more tips you’d like to add? Let us know!
– By Berbay Senior Account Manager Megan Braverman