When we are media training clients, almost to a man – or woman – they believe that an interview with a newspaper is far easier than one with TV or radio.
After all, in a print interview you’re clearly not making a fool of yourself in front of an audience of millions, going bright red and dripping with sweat under the studio lights and under such ferocious attack from the likes of Jeremy Paxman that you want to just run away.
But in actual fact, the potential pitfalls can be far greater if you’re being interviewed by a newspaper.
After all, in a TV or radio interview, if you don’t say it, the programme can’t broadcast it. In a print interview, if you don’t say it, the journalist can still quote you – and has the power to twist your words or draw misleading inferences.
So here are a few key pitfalls to avoid:
- Don’t give yes or no answers – or even just nod – as this will often be turned into a quote, as in, ‘I agree my company was to blame that huge environmental disaster in the Gulf’
- Don’t say no comment: it can be extremely damaging if translated as ‘xxx refused to comment on the allegations that his company had been defrauding the Inland Revenue’
- Don’t use too much jargon or too many acronyms – keep your language clear and simple
- Don’t believe a journalist who tells you something is ‘off-the-record’. If you give them a great story, by hook or by crook, they’ll want to publish it
- Don’t be lulled into the belief that an interview is just a conversation or chat – the journalist is trained to make you relax, let your guard down and reveal things you don’t want to
There’s five for starters, but there are loads more …. what advice do you have? Have you ever been caught out?