What not to say to a journalist

Posted: Thursday June 17 2021

By: Katie Mallinson

Once you’ve successfully set up a credible and operational business, eventually there will come a time when approaching the press is not only beneficial, but necessary, in order to spread the word and utilise the many media opportunities out there.

What not to say to a journalist

Talking to a journalist can be an exhilarating experience – and one that could potentially open a lot of doors for your organisation. However, there are a few key points to bear in mind during any interview, in order to guarantee a positive, lasting impression for you and your business.

Here are some top tips to remember, as well as what not to say to a reporter, to help you generate the most effective coverage.

  1. Every word matters

When talking to the press, it is best to assume that every word – from your first ‘hello’ to the moment the story goes to print – goes on the record. Always apply the golden rule: if in doubt, leave it out.

Avoid discussing anything you would prefer not to see in black and white. Take your time when answering questions, and make sure that your responses are considered to avoid any nasty surprises once the story has been published.

  1. “No comment”

We all remember the interviews with a painfully uncomfortable ‘no comment’ moment. Nothing implies guilt or a gap in knowledge like those two little words being uttered, and they can often be music to a journalist’s ears – leading to further painful probing.

If you are asked a question you cannot – or would prefer not to – answer, try to calmly explain why. Good examples include: “I wish I could help you, however that is confidential information,” or “That’s a really good question, but one I’d need to look into further – let me get back to you.”

  1. Nothing personal

Avoid getting too personal in your interview. While it’s important to tell your story – and a little background information adds some flavour to your coverage – the lines can become blurred when personal opinions are brought into the mix.

Remember that you are always representing your brand, so keep it professional and avoid discussing any topics which could be considered controversial.

  1. Keep it simple

Bear in mind that although you live and breathe your business, journalists may be completely new to the intricacies of your organisation and therefore any technical jargon will be lost on them.

Take the time to explain your processes and procedures in layman’s terms and give solid examples of how your company works – this will pay dividends, and translate into accurate and credible coverage, and possibly even foster long-term media relations.

  1. Stay positive

Avoid circling back or repeating any negative points that have been discussed. While it may feel like you are simply clarifying your point of view, it may give the journalist fuel to focus on a negative perspective.

Above all, try to relax and enjoy it. Follow these tips and you may discover that delivering a press interview can be an enjoyable and beneficial experience!

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