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Media Training Tips: Do’s and Dont’s

There are a a few golden rules when it comes to speaking to journalists.  I’ve put together a list of simple “do’s” and “don’ts”.  Here goes:

Don’t say “as I said before” or “as I was telling you earlier” or “as I explained to your producer” or make any reference to an earlier conversation.

Don’t overuse the journalist’s name.

Don’t refer to the subject as “it”.  It can mean anything and later be taken out of context.

Don’t tell a lie.

Don’t make up an answer or guess.

Don’t over explain.

Don’t exaggerate.

Don’t fill in the gaps or pauses.  Make your point and the stop talking.

Don’t repeat a negative.

Don’t be frightened to show emotion.

Don’t speak off the record.

Do use language that’s descriptive and colourful.

Do use metaphors and analogies to explain your message.

Do repeat a key word or phrase to emphasise your point.

 

Media Training Tips: When is an interview really over?

You may have noticed a growing trend for the longer form news programs like Sunday Night on Channel 7 and Sixty Minutes on Channel 9 to film their guests arriving and then leaving their interview. Often the cameraman will have buttoned on so that the cameras can capture the guest arriving. At that point perhaps they will show the guest looking nervous or arriving with a team of PR and support people who would usually stay off camera.
Similarly at the end of an interview the journalist will thank their guest and signal that the interview is over. The cameraman however does not button off. He keeps rolling while the journalist makes idle chit chat. What the producers are hoping is that the guest will say something far more revealing in those final few moments when they think the interview is over.
Take a look at this recent interview with James Magnussen. The journalist is Chris Bath. She thanks James for his time but then throws in one last “empathetic” comment.
Remember – from the time you greet the journalist until the time you actually leave the building you are on the record. Don’t be fooled by these kinds of throw away comments, jokes or asides.

Have a look at the video and let me know what you think.

James Magnussen talks to Sunday Night

 

“off the record” interviews.

In Hollywood movies and even local TV drama you’ll often hear journalists asking questions “off the record”.  It’s presented as an opportunity to squeal on a bad boss or blow the whistle on a corrupt organisation.  In real life it’s more commonly used to get some background information or perhaps to give an interviewee the confidence to say a little more than he or she ordinarily would.

I think it’s a mistake to speak off the record.  Although most journalists will keep their word, some might be over ruled by their producer or editor and in extreme cases where the courts become involved journalists may have to decide if saving your bacon is worth a prison sentence!  (Also remember they are human beings and some human beings love to gossip.)

A safe rule of thumb is if you are uncomfortable with the idea of seeing the information in print, don’t share it.  Easy!

But if you do choose to go ahead with an off record interview I suggest the following:

1.  Only talk to journalists you have a good and ongoing relationship with.  They are less likely to burn you than someone you’ve just met.

2.  Check first with your communications team.  There maybe more to the story you don’t know about or a communications plan you are about to sabotage.

3.   Weigh up the pros and cons of speaking out.  Once you’ve disclosed information you can’t take it back.

Even if you aren’t specifically named, your identity maybe obvious to those in the know.