From the vault: Golden rules for a press encounter

A couple of years ago I prepared a colleague who had recently been trained as German media spokesperson for his first interview. He had read the training documents, we had practised some mock interview situations. In order to provide him with a quick reference guide, I prepared this short list of “golden rules” for a press encounter.

Microphones At Press Conference

DOs

  1. Remember your core messages. Write them down in a few bullet points.
  2. Be prepared for the journalist to record the interview in order to write up an article based on the recording.
  3. Be sure you have understood the question. If in doubt, ask for the question to be repeated.
  4. Use facts facts facts. Numbers, dates, names, all help to illustrate your story and are your best tool in a media conversation.
  5. You are allowed to ask questions of the journalist, such as “do you have a deadline for this article?”. As part of the introductory small talk or when wrapping it up. It shows consideration for your interview partner’s work.
  6. Relax. Be yourself, and be prepared to speak about hobbies and your life outside of your profession.
  7. Show sense of humour. Especially when faced with uncomfortable questions.
  8. Remember that most journalists work under enormous deadline pressure. Short answers are better than long monologues.

DON’Ts

  1. Lie. You always get found out and then your credibility is gone.
  2. “No comment”. Suggests that you and by extension your company have something to hide. If you want to avoid answering, say you don’t know and will get in touch with the right answer.
  3. Avoid jargon or TLAs, “three letter acronyms”. Best to assume that the journalist knows even less of your product functionalities than the marketing department… You can always adjust this case by case.
  4. Don’t get upset. This quickly leads to an aggressive or defensive tone, which will distract from your message.
  5. Don’t ask to see copy for approval before printing. This can be seen as censorship. Leave it to your PR department or agency to clarify use, reviews etc.

Which DOs and DON’Ts would you add?

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