A Practical Guide to Dealing with the Media
Use every opportunity to deliver your message.
Use every question to “bridge” back to your message: useful phrases to divert from difficult questions include: “the real issue here is” ... “with respect, I think you’re missing the point” ... “yes, that’s why this is so important”—then repeat your message.
If you can’t comment on something, say why.
“I’d like to answer that for you, but this case is before the courts and that is up to the judge/jury to decide”. “I don’t have that information for you right now, but I can get back to you on that point.” (And do!)
Do not talk until you’re ready with your messages.
Don’t have more than three main messages, if you can avoid it. Write and say them out loud a few times, to make sure they make sense. Practise catchy 10-second “soundbites”—the things you absolutely want quoted. Treat this like you’re preparing a witness for cross-examination: think of the potential questions, develop your answers, and practise.
Do not make the mistake of trying to be an interesting interview.
Be repetitive—you may worry about being boring, but if you only give the answers you want to give, that’s what’s going to get quoted. Avoid the temptation to re-state the same thing in some new, interesting way—you may end up saying something you didn’t intend to.
Do not repeat negative parts of questions.
“Your client is a liar”. “My client is not a liar”. Sounds like Nixon to me. Instead say: “my client has repeatedly said that she is telling the truth.” Or “we are confident that the judge/jury will be able to assess the truth for themselves.”
Do not get sucked into the trap of filling dead air.
A good reporter pauses after your first answer, to see whether or not you will say more. It is a hard habit to break, that need to keep the conversation going—especially when you’re nervous—but you must force yourself to stay quiet, and let the reporter take responsibility for filling that airtime.