Media Training: Exposing Reporter Tricks -- Three Tactics Designed to Get You

A reporter's job is to get the most accurate and interesting story he or she can. Whether journalists make you look good or bad in the process is inconsequential to them ? their loyalty is to their story, and their goal is to elicit the most dramatic quotes possible from you.

This is not to suggest that you should view every encounter with reporters as adversarial. In fact, most interviews are quite straightforward. But a good journalist will try to steer you "off message." He or she will use well-established tricks of the trade to get you to say things you didn't intend to say, and some of those things might prove embarrassing when you see them in the newspaper the next day.

By knowing some of the tricks of the reporting trade, you can maintain control of the interview and get the quotes you want. Below are three ways to avoid falling into a reporter's trap:

1) Never Repeat a Bad Question in Your Answer -- It usually starts innocuously enough. A journalist will tell you that because his or her questions will not be included in the story, you should answer the questions in complete sentences.

For example, if a reporter asks, 'Are you pleased with the number of donations your organization received this year?" he or she would ask you to answer by saying, "Our organization is pleased with the number of donations we've received this year." It makes perfect sense, and is a legitimate way of conducting an interview.

But occasionally, a reporter will ask a negative question without warning. You have to break the rules here, and answer the question as a positive.

For example, if a reporter asks you, "Is it true that your organization has committed fraud?" you probably don't want your quote the next day to say, "It isn't true that our organization committed fraud." Such a quote links your organization to the word "fraud," an association you'd probably rather not make.

Assuming, of course, that your business did not commit fraud, you should answer that question in a positive manner, such as, "In our 35 years of business, we have always taken great pains to ensure that our business operates within the word and spirit of the law. We have operated ethically in this case, as we strive to in all of our dealings."

2) Shhhhh! -- During most interviews, reporters will ask a steady stream of questions and you will answer them. No surprises there. But remember the goal of the journalist ? he or she wants to steer you off message in order to elicit a more interesting response.

Sometimes, after you finish answering the reporter's question, the reporter will just sit there, as if he or she wants you to continue speaking. The silence usually flusters the interviewee, who tries to please his or her interviewer by speaking again ? and usually strays far off message in the process. Don't fall into this trap! If you find yourself in a "reportorial stare down," simply ask whether the reporter has another question and move on.

3) Don't Assume the Reporter Knows What He Says He Knows -- For this one, I'll turn it over to Eric Nalder, an investigative reporter for the respected San Jose Mercury News. In his article, "The Art of the Interview," Nalder writes, "Play like you know. Ask the official why he fired the whistle-blower rather than asking whether he did the deed. The question presumes you already know even if you don't have it confirmed. They'll start explaining rather than denying."

In other words, by falling into this trap, you may be the person who confirms a negative story about your own organization. If the reporter has made a false assumption, speak up. If not, don't help the journalist confirm it unless you've made a conscious choice to do so.

Brad Phillips is the founder and president of Phillips Media Relations (http://www.PhillipsMediaRelations.com). He was formerly a journalist for ABC News and CNN, and also headed the media relations department for the second largest environmental group in the world.

In The News:

Pine Belt PRAM recognizes best in PR |  Mississippi Business Journal
Five PR Management Tips They Don't Teach You in College  PR News - For Smart Communicators
Saudi splurges on sports PR  Mail and Guardian
JOB ALERT! Manage Goodwood’s PR! | GRR  Goodwood Road and Racing
Who Needs PR Distribution Services?  Business 2 Community

How to Write Press Releases That Work And Get Free Publicity

One study found that as many as 90% of the... Read More

TV Reporter Shares the Secrets to Getting Covered on the News

Do you have a great idea for a story, but... Read More

Take the High Ground With Quality PR

Quality public relations does something positive for business, non-profit and... Read More

Preparing For Your Media Interview

Media interviews are an important part of an overall public... Read More

HELP: I Need a Press Kit!

A press kit is an essential press relations tool. While... Read More

GETTING YOUR MESSAGE ACROSS

You have a story to tell. Your company has developed... Read More

PR: A Potent Force for Success

What's REALLY potent for a business, non-profit or association manager... Read More

Why News Releases Fail

Sorry about my otaku with this issue (otaku = more... Read More

Making the News - Tips from A News Journalist

What makes a good media release and how do you... Read More

Hispanic Media Relations Training: What to Do When Hispanic Media Call

You are a spokesperson for your company, representing it for... Read More

Get Write To It

The toughest thing about writing a news release is getting... Read More

How to Form a Relationship with a Newspaper

How do you make a good relationship with a newspaper... Read More

How to Keep PR Working for You

Managers in the non-profit, association and business worlds need to... Read More

PR? Why?

Well, for starters, because good public relations can alter individual... Read More

How PR Makes a Managers Life Easier

Things are pleasant for many business, non-profit or association managers... Read More

The Non-business Business

Think for a moment! If you were to do a... Read More

PR Planning: Mapping Out Your Strategies, Tactics

With all due respect to all those stereotypical males out... Read More

How To Write A Press Release: The Seven Deadly Sins And How To Avoid Them

How to write a press release that generates free publicity... Read More

Something New For Managers?

A new public relations blueprint could be a good idea... Read More

Why PR Can be Effective Medicine

When properly applied by business, non-profit and association managers, public... Read More

The Story The Media Really Wants

If you're like most of my clients, you're probably interested... Read More

Marketing-Minded Financial Planners, Focus on Main Points During an Interview

You never want to inundate a reporter with information, but... Read More

Can Your PR Do This?

Can your PR do something positive about the behaviors of... Read More

How Real PR Works

For some, public relations works well when their news release... Read More

A Blueprint for Managing your PR

OK, as a manager, your goal is to show a... Read More