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How To Handle A Tough Media Interview

posted 24 Feb 2013, 08:04 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Feb 2013, 08:05 ]

Henry Kissinger, when Secretary of State in the USA in the
1970s used to stride into media conferences and declare:
"Anyone here got any questions to go with my answers?" Now,
that's the attitude you need when dealing with tough media
interviews or media conferences. Too many people go into
these encounters worrying about what the journalist might
ask them instead of worrying more about what information
they can impart to put some sort of balance into the
interview equation.

You see, in any issue based interview, the journalist is
going to come at you with negative questioning and, if you
do nothing to counter that, the whole interview will end up
as a negative quagmire from which it will be almost
impossible for you to escape with any dignity intact.

After several decades of television news and current
affairs experience and an equal amount of time media
training I can honestly say that the rules for handling
tough media interviews haven't changed at all and I can't
see that they ever will. You have to stand up for yourself
and not let the journalist browbeat you; you have to make
sure you get some of your "equalising" positive points
across; you have to do it in an as entertaining way as
possible within the confines of the issue and you certainly
have to do your preparation which includes filtering what
information you should be imparting as well as working out
your main two-to-three points you want to get across in the

Other points, that apply to all media interviews, are to
keep your language simple but powerful, be concise and
never forget the audience you're talking to through that
journalist ' who they are and where they are?   Also
remember to avoid using that awful phrase, 'no comment'. At
the very least, give the media the reason why you can't
comment as this provides the journalist with something
useful for his/her audience. It also gives a better image
of you as you don't appear arrogant or as if you're trying
to hide something.

Don't mimic the politicians and ignore the question. This
is why their credibility is always so low. Be seen to
answer the difficult question but stay general. Then, try
to counter with some positive aspect and go very specific.
Paint a word picture for your audience.

Use a smile, chuckle or laugh to counter any ridiculous
accusations. Use the same technique if you try to put down
the journalist. This latter technique usually fails if
attempted in a serious manner.

Doorstop interviews can be a nightmare. Try to avoid them
until you are more experienced. Remember that the
journalists in a doorstop are playing to opposition news
directors as well as to their audience. Many a career
change has taken place as a result of some vicious
questioning at a doorstop interview. If you can't avoid the
doorstop, make an excuse to check the latest details to get
back inside and do a mini-preparation, say 3 minutes, and
then go back into the fray but be in absolute control.

Don't forget - Use a media interview to counter any
misinformation that may be already out there.

Finally, always remember that it's YOUR interview as well
as the journalist's.

About the Author:

Graham Kelly has extensive experience in television news
and current affairs journalism as well as media training.
He has written the world's first multi-media ebook on
handling the media (actually the third edition of this
media training book) as well as a set of media training
Visit our book website at
or the main training site at