While being questioned, a source needs to maintain control throughout the interview and avoid speculation. This will help establish the interviewee as an expert in his or her field and become a trusted source in future stories. On the other hand, interview mistakes can damage one’s public reputation and spread inaccuracies. To help prevent this from happening, follow these tips for handling the media:
Don’t Go “Off the Record”
The term “off the record” is used by sources when they want to provide a journalist with information, but don’t want it attributed to them. In reality, this term does not exist. Individuals who are interviewed by the media need to understand that everything they say is on the record, and a journalist is not legally bound to withhold publishing information that was provided in an “off the record” manner.
Do Ask the Reporter to Clarify Questions
If a question is unclear, ask for clarification or context before answering the question. This can prevent information from being misconstrued or misinterpreted. Sources are not required to answer every question.
Don’t Speak for Others When Talking to the Media
Individuals should only answer questions that are applicable to themselves and their role in a particular situation. If questioned about the thoughts or actions of another individual, politely decline to answer, explain why and provide contact information for the other person if possible.
Do Prepare Written Statements for Complex or Controversial Interviews
Providing written statements prior to or in place of face-to-face interviews is necessary when delivering controversial or crisis information to multiple media outlets. This is done to ensure accuracy across organizations and to provide a paper trail in case false information is published. Written statements are also effective when delivering information that is complex and not easily understood by a general audience. It can be used to supplement a face-to-face interview.
Don’t Speculate or Make Assumptions about Other Sources
Journalists are trained to report on all sides of a story, remain objective and remove biases. In order to do this, a reporter will include multiple sources in a single story, sometimes with conflicting viewpoints. This is why it’s especially important to stick to facts, only speak for oneself and provide written statements when presented with complex issues.
Do Offer Flexibility for a Follow-up Interview
At the close of a news interview, verify contact information with the reporter and offer availability for a follow-up interview. Questions often arise after the initial interview, and approachable, responsive sources often receive future press coverage.
A journalist wants to publish an accurate story as much as a source wants to be represented in an accurate manner. This happens with both parties are clear about their intentions, offer factual information and avoid speculation. Additional information for news sources and pre-interview steps can be found at how to prepare for a news interview.