The best media spokespeople have something newsworthy to say; demonstrate their expertise; are accessible, candid and honest; and recognize that relationships with the media are a two-way street.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your media interviews:
- Keep answers brief. Stick to the point and don’t be afraid to repeat key messages.
- Speak clearly. Relax and speak naturally in short, concise sentences.
- Use anecdotes, images, metaphors and colorful phrases. Personalize your messages by using anecdotes from your own experiences. Good sound bites often have a ring to them – e.g., “Realtors do more than help people buy and sell houses, we help them invest in their future.”
- Never go “off the record.” As a spokesperson, your job is to speak on the record all the time. Assume everything you say to a reporter anytime, anywhere, might end up on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.
- Avoid saying “no comment.” The audience never interprets “no comment” neutrally. If you can’t talk about a subject, explain why – most reporters will understand. Move the interview to a topic that you can talk about.
- Avoid jargon. Usually, the audience you’ll be speaking to is consumers, who don’t know what a FSBO, ARM, or GSE is. Be sure to explain any insider terms or jargon.
- Limit the use of statistics. Make data relevant to the average person. Instead of “76.7 percent,” say “three out of four.”
- Don’t repeat a negative or speculate. Never answer a “what if” question. Reporters ask you to speculate to draw you out. To avoid repeating a negative, respond by saying “THAT’S not true” or “I don’t agree with THAT,” then get to what you want to say.
- Correct misstatements or errors quickly. Don’t let a reporter’s mistakes linger. Whether it’s something minor or major, correct a misstatement or factual mistake. Do it graciously but promptly. Reporters are interested in accuracy first and will appreciate your help.