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The Media Interview, Part 2: Answering Questions
You've done your homework to prepare for the interview, following the advice in last month's PR Tip of the Month. Follow the pointers below when answering the interview questions.
- Be Concise
This is the most important tip to remember. Keep your answers short and to the point. Don't speak in run-on sentences or give long explanations. Unless the interview is live TV or radio, everything you say will be edited. If you give long answers, the point you want to get across may get lost in the editing process.
- Begin with a Conclusion
Usually when you talk or make a presentation to someone, you start with a premise or fact and then build to a conclusion. When talking to a reporter, you begin with the conclusion. The conclusion is your key message. Here's a famous example from Ronald Reagan: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
- Follow up with Facts and Specifics
Use facts or a specific example to illustrate your point. Your opinion becomes an expert opinion when it's reinforced with data. Provide exact dates, figures, statistics, events and names.
- Don't Use Jargon
Stick with words that most people would understand. Avoid using acronyms or terms specific to your industry. If you must use a technical term, explain it.
- Don't Say Anything You Wouldn't Want to See in Print
Or read online, or hear on radio or TV. Reporters want what you say to be on the record. Don't expect to cut any deals after you've made a statement you regret. Also, don't assume the microphone is off.
- Don't Sound Like a Commercial
A media interview is not an advertising opportunity. Hard sell statements will get edited out of the story and will damage your reputation for being a good interview.
- Be Honest
Never knowingly mislead a reporter. You must be truthful to be credible. If you lie, the reporter will find out.
- Repeat Your Key Message or Messages
You don't want to sound like a broken record, but redundancy is necessary for the message to be remembered.
- Never Say "No Comment."
More on this in the next issue. I'll discuss why you shouldn't say no comment, and how to answer a question when you can't provide the information.