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Top 10 mistakes people make with the news media

posted 24 Feb 2013, 06:10 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Feb 2013, 06:10 ]

There are any number of mistakes people make when they're
faced with dealing with the news media but, in my opinion
as both a journalist and media trainer of long standing
experience, here are the top 10 mistakes.

1. Not believing that it's your interview as well. Thinking

that it's purely the journalist's interview and worrying,
therefore, about what you might get asked. Remember the
Henry Kissinger line as he strode into media conferences -
"anyone here got any questions to go with my answers?"

2. Giving in too easily to the media instead of standing up
for yourself. I've seen CEOs who wouldn't take any rubbish
from people at work submit like a pussycat to the news
media - and it's not a pretty sight.

3. Agreeing to instant interviews instead of making sure
you allow enough time for proper preparation. Lie to the
media if you have to - they'll lie to you to get their own
way and you might have to use similar tactics, like fibbing
that you're in an important meeting and that you'll call
them back in 20 minutes. That much preparation time might
be short but it's a lot better than no preparation at all.

4. Believing every word in the journalist's questions.
Quite often, journos will invent things to try you out - a
kind of fishing expedition to see what they can catch.
Remember that you're the expert and that's why the media
are chasing you so don't let them browbeat you with
exaggeration, bluff or downright lies.

5. Being far too polite if you're asked impertinent or
ill-mannered questions. In my media training workshops I
always advise participants to think of a social situation
like drinks at the bar, a dinner party or a BBQ with
neighbours - and react to the journalist as you would if
you were asked such a question there. That usually makes
them stand up for themselves a little more - see point 2

6. Forgetting your bridging phrases and sitting there with
an open mouth and blank mind.  There's any number of these
phrases. I heard a new one last night on TV news that I
thought was worth repeating - "look, I'm not here today to
talk much about that, but I can tell you that...."

7. Failing to have key messages and delivering them. You
need to develop three or four key messages and have
evidence to back them up. Then, make sure you inject them
into the interview - otherwise, why are you there talking
to the journalist in the first place? With practice, you
should stick to your messages and repeat them, with
variations in the words used so it doesn't sound like
you're repeating yourself.

8. Not injecting some "entertainment value" into the
interview. Too many people believe the news media are there
purely for information gathering but today's news media,
more than ever before, want that information delivered in
an entertaining fashion. That could involve pithy
catch-phrases, analogies, humour or scorn - any number of
techniques. Perhaps just letting your own personality show
is a good start.

9. Not being passionate about your messages. How can you
expect to convince the journalist and his/her public about
your sincerity and beliefs if you're not being passionate
about them? Nothing kills a media interview more than a
lacklustre performance by the interviewee.

10. And, finally - not understanding the limitations of
radio and TV compared with print. Print will take a lot
more detail (especially local newspapers) than its
electronic counterparts. But, if you can appear on TV
regularly, even with short interview grabs, you can build
up a far more powerful image and perception in the public

About the Author:

Graham Kelly is a media trainer who's helped thousands of
executives in nine different countries handle the media
more confidently.  If you like his top 10 mistakes listed
here, you'll love his set of 95 media training tips and
five articles on key training points that are available at