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.
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
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
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.