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March 2009 - Meeting the Media: Things to Avoid

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John Kline, PhD, inspirational and motivational keynote and after-dinner speaker and corporate trainer.

March 2009

Meeting the Media: Things to Avoid

This is the fifth column in the series on Meeting the Media.  The previous two gave specific things you can do to increase the chance of a good interview.  This one tells things to avoid.

Avoid using words that may have a negative connotation.  For example, refer to a situation as challenging, rather than difficult; a person as determined rather than headstrong; information as incomplete rather than sketchy.   Using negative words tends to cast you in a negative light, positive ones reflect well on you and your message.

Don’t mirror the attitude of a hostile interviewer.  Occasionally, interviewers become negative; perhaps because they are frustrated by how the interview is progressing, or perhaps because they want to lure you into becoming hostile or giving information you didn’t plan to reveal.  Whatever the reason, maintain your composure; it helps you project a better image and communicate your message.

Don’t use—or repeat—unverified terminology or “facts” given by a reporter.  Simply dismiss them by saying something such as, “No, that’s not true.”  Then follow with an accurate statement of the situation.  Repeating terminology and facts adds credence to them.

Don’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no.”  First, such answers generally do not serve your need and desire to get the information to the public.  Second, extremely short answers often come across as curt, brusque or gruff.  Finally, short answers often irritate the interviewer or reporter who is attempting to get a story to print or a television interview.

Avoid acronyms, technical terms or jargon that will not be understood by many in the audience.  Their use not only hinders communication, it may turn off the audience to both you and your message.  In some cases, audience members and the reporter or interviewer may see the use of such terms or jargon as attempts to hide information or project an aura of superiority.

Avoid gratuitous or unnecessary phrases.  They may come across as “time-fillers” or attempts to stall and not answer the question.  And common ones such as, “I’m glad you asked that question,” or “That’s a good question,” often suggest the opposite from what the words say; that is, you actually wish you had not been asked that question.

Don’t lie or dodge questions. Answer as honestly and completely as you can.  If you don’t know the answer, or if for some reason you choose not to answer, simply say so.

Treat the media as you want others to treat you. If you are distant and hostile with the media, you’ll get what you give. Media need and want information. Spokespeople who are accessible and sensitive to a reporter’s need for information will generate credibility and create a good working relationship.
John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

December 2006 - Motivating Others: Communicate Clearly
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