Never answer his questions immediately when a journalist contacts you directly. Ask for a reasonable time to prepare for a response and, if necessary, refer him to the correct spokesperson and brief him or her.
Always ask for the journalist’s telephone number and never give them the numbers of your colleagues to avoid them being contacted directly and unexpectedly when they are not prepared for it.
Ask the journalist who else he has spoken to or plans to contact in the context of his article so that you have a better understanding of his structure and approach.
Prepare yourself well for every interview with the media. Take the necessary time for this. Consider the information you wish to convey and restrict it to one or two messages. Always ensure that the journalist gets the requested information, either through you or a colleague. If not, he will not return in the future.
This should never be a problem as you are an expert in your domain. It is more difficult, however, to express your knowledge to laypeople in simple, understandable language. Never lose yourself in jargon that the journalist barely understands. Make an effort to simplify your language and use recognizable examples as illustrations. Provide the journalist with background information as far as this is possible and present it in a media kit.
Never manipulate editorial content. You may occasionally succeed, but almost all journalists despise such practices. You will harm your image irreparable and you will get an unfavorable reputation.
Confidential information or comments that are not intended for publication are strictly excluded from conversations with journalists. Even when you say that the information or commentary is ‘off the record’, you cannot be sure that it will not be in the newspaper the next day.
An interview is only done when the journalist is no longer physically present. Therefore, avoid sharing confidential, informal information before the start or after the conclusion of the ‘formal’ interview.
Do not be drawn to make negative comments about colleagues or other experts.
If you don’t want to or cannot respond to a question by a journalist, try to explain why you prefer not to respond to a particular question or offer to provide him with the information later. In this way, you will retain the trust of the journalist. By answering all the journalist’s questions saves him from searching elsewhere for information.
Honesty is the best policy. Always answer the questions of the journalist correctly or explain why you cannot answer a question. Incorrect or dishonest answers arouse suspicion and will incite the journalist to investigate or to write a negative article.
Be relaxed and calm, especially in front of the camera. There is no reason to be nervous or to panic. You are the specialist who is an expert on the topic. Don’t allow yourself to be led by emotion, even if the journalist asks aggressive questions.
Try to give full, but not too long answers to the questions of the journalist. By answering the question correctly and completely, you avoid further discussion. You have to answer briefly and concisely; especially during interviews for radio and TV. Make sure that your messages are always included in the answer by starting with the conclusion and then explaining your reasoning.
Make sure that you know who you will be speaking to and who the media’s target audience is. This will allow you to adapt your messages and language to suit the audience.
You always have to ask what the journalist wants to know before the start of the interview. This way you also gauge his knowledge about the matter. Briefly inform the journalist before the interview what the essence of your messages is and check whether they have been adequately covered and whether the journalist has understood them after the interview. If this was not the case, you can repeat the key messages after the interview.
Some journalists give you their questions before the interview. This will, however, not prevent him from asking more or other questions during the interview.
When interviewing journalists of the print media, it is advisable to ask before the start of the interview for permission to read the article BEFORE publication so that you can correct any errors. However, when reading, limit yourself to correcting factual errors and do not rewrite the article.
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