Dealing with the Media: Press Tips

Talking to reporters can be exciting, daunting, and down-right nerve-wracking.  Below are a few tips that can help you effectively deal with the media from HPAC’s Tania deLuzuriaga.

Be prepared.

  • It’s your interview, not the reporter’s.
  • Decide in advance what you do and do not want to say to a reporter.
  • Decide one or two main points you want to get across.
  • Write your key points and supporting facts down to help you prepare.

Listen.

  • The story you want to tell may not be the angle the reporter is seeking.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a reporter what their story is about before you accept an interview request.
  • Do your homework to understand how your points fit into the story.

Be concise (Get to the point quickly and stay there.)

  • Respond quickly to reporters; they work on tight deadlines.
  • Lead with your key points.
  • Make your key points over and over.
  • Make your key points almost regardless of the questions asked.
  • ‘Juicy’ or sensational comments WILL find their way into a story.
  • Always remember, things you say outside the ‘interview’ can find their way into a story.

Keep it simple.

  • Reporters are looking for clear, simple, ‘lively’ quotes that can be understood by a wide audience.
  • Don’t throw a lot of information at a reporter and assume he/she will know what to emphasize.

Handling tough stuff.

  • Set ground rules for the interview up front:
    • Are you talking on the record or on background?
    • Would the reporter be willing to repeat/email the quotes he/she will use?
    • If you talk off the record, you must announce that condition in advance. 
  • Don’t assume a reporter understands the background of a story.  Talk ‘on background’ if needed.
  • Avoid answering loaded or ludicrous questions.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question or need time to collect data or your thoughts, tell the reporter you will get back with him or her later with an answer.