Count On

Resources

Talking to the media in a crisis

Here are some guidelines for talking to the media:

First of all...

  • If a journalist calls and you are not prepared, take his or her number, details of what they want and their deadline time.
  • Avoid saying 'no comment'. If you are unable to answer a question, explain you need to find out the facts.
  • Always keep your word and ring back within their deadline.

Then...

  • Research the relevant information.
  • Prepare notes for yourself or your spokesperson on the points you want to get across.
  • Be co-operative, and do not be flustered or defensive. The journalist has a story to write and you have a story to tell. It may not be a story you want to tell, but that is beside the point. If you don't take control of the story, the journalist will do it without you.

Finally...

  • Never assume anything is 'off the record'. Keep in mind that whatever you say, you should be happy to see in print.
  • Make sure that everyone in your school who needs to speak to the media is aware of these procedures.
  • Once the interview takes place:
    • Listen to the question
    • Give as direct an answer as possible. Get to the point of the matter and don't be evasive - it shows.
    • Ask for clarification if you don't understand something. Some questions can seem tough because they are unclear or ambiguous. Don't feel intimidated - ask the questioner to restate the question more clearly.
    • When faced with a multiple question answer the one point that is most relevant to you. Then let the interviewer re-ask the others. If you don't know, say so. Saying "I don't know, but I'll find out" is valid - as long as you keep your promise! If the media discovers you have been lying or concealing important information, they will pursue the question. If you can't give them certain information, explain why, never keep them wondering.
    • Don't be intimidated by the questioner. If interrupted, stand your ground. Politely tell the questioner you would like to finish answering the question.
    • Say the most important things first. Speak in headlines like a press release, get your main story over first, then expand in greater detail.
    • Stay within your field of knowledge. Nobody expects you to be an expert on everything. Stick to what you know and use personal experiences.

Additional points if being interviewed for TV

  • Keep calm and speak slowly and succinctly.
  • Try not to use too many hand movements, try not to touch your face or fidget - the TV will pick-up on this and make you look as if you have something to hide!
  • Look at the interviewer in the eyes and not at the floor or ceiling - again this will make you appear unprofessional.

Remember: you should ask the interviewer what type of questions they are going to ask before the interview so you can prepare your answers.