11 Things Not to Do When Talking to the Media

You’ve been tapped to speak to a member of the media or several reporters at a press conference about your company. You’ve been given the broad topics, you’ve scheduled the event, and you’ve even done some informal background checks on the media members who will attend as well as their outlets. You’ve even picked out what you’re going to wear.

But there are some things that you should not do when giving an interview or speaking at a press conference. Here are eleven of them.

1. Go into the interview unprepared. It’s important to think about the questions you’ll be asked and the way that you wish to answer them. If necessary, practice by asking a colleague to play the role of the reporter.

2. Wait for the perfect question. Reporters may not phrase their questions the way you anticipate. So take any opportunity to state your key points, even if it means quickly bridging to a response that’s only tangentially related to the question you were asked.

3. Look bored or angry. That’s a surefire way to bring about negative publicity. Unless the subject matter is somber, smile as you answer your questions. Keep eye contact with the reporter or the camera instead of looking down or away.

4. Be blunt or hostile. You may get a question that’s unexpected or provocative. The worst thing to do is attack the person who asked it, because it makes you and your company look bad. Just politely deflect the question and stick to your message.

5. Say “No comment.” In almost every situation, this response makes you (and your company) look guilty or secretive. If you can’t discuss the subject matter, then briefly explain why, such as, “our lawyers have advised us that because of pending legislation, we can’t get more specific on that, sorry.”

6. Ramble. In most cases, the interview or press conference will be edited and your best responses broadcast in the media. Droning on about a topic or speaking in run-on sentences will degrade the end product and dilute your company’s message.

7. Use lots of jargon. Unless your target audience is made up of your industry peers, speak in layperson’s terms whenever possible. Use analogies or metaphors to clarify difficult concepts. Otherwise, the average viewer won’t know what you are talking about.

8. Hurry through your answers. It is always best to think before you begin answering a question. Make sure your answers are succinct, but are given using a conversational tone. If your responses are rushed, they may appear rehearsed.

9. Get sidetracked by a question. It’s okay to be somewhat spontaneous, but don’t get lulled into elaborating on issues that aren’t part of your company’s message. If you are asked an off-point question, respond quickly and return to your main points.

10. Speculate. That’s where many interview subjects get into trouble. Stick to the facts and avoid indulging any “what-if” scenarios that are presented to you. If you haven’t thought about these issues beforehand, you could reveal too much information or make promises that the company can’t back up.

11. Lie. Your mother was right on this one – especially when it comes to interviews. Never, never, never lie when answering a question. Reporters live for exposing dishonest people, and that could severely damage your company’s reputation (not to mention your own credibility).

Chris Martin is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites and is also a ghostwriter for several blogs. In addition, he is an accomplished voice actor, an experienced sportscaster, and a local reporter – so he knows what media members are really like.