I can totally understand the feeling. You get a call from a news reporter who wants comments from you about an incident, issue or event.
This leads to an immediate physical reaction. You feel your whole body tense up. Dry mouth attacks. A reporter is precisely the last person you wanted to hear from today.
Or, you might feel like, “Great! I could use the free PR!”
It’s normal to have a range of reactions to a pitch from a reporter for an interview, from total repulsion to a total embrace of the idea. Even as a former television anchor and reporter, I’ve certainly felt nervous any time I’ve been interviewed for a story.
I used to be the reporter calling for an interview and heard many different reactions. Most of the time, those conversations went very well and the interviews were schedule. I also had people hang up on me. I don’t recommend that. Be patient when a reporter calls and listen to what they have to say. Understand that you’ll probably feel nervous when you take that call.
Here are some thoughts I hope will help ease that tension.
It helps to understand some things about reporters, in a general sense, whether they work in the traditional media or digital media.
- Most reporters who work for newspapers, television, radio or other traditional media are professionals with degrees in journalism.
- They may or may not know you and what you do.
- They are not necessarily content experts, but never assume they do not know the topic.
- They rely on facts and commentary in order to do their jobs.
- Sometimes, they have to take “crash courses” on the topics they’re covering.
- They are busy! Many reporters work in both traditional and online world as MMJs, or multimedia journalists, who not only report the news, but are also tasked with the electronic gathering of the video and/or sound that accompanies a story on TV, radio, or the internet.
- The work of a reporter in traditional media is usually complicated by pressures from management and editors who are charged with putting the news organization’s best face forward on a minute-by-minute basis.
- If you’re contacted by someone who writes or blogs online for a living, this person faces other kinds of constraints.
- Either way, these conditions lead to tight deadlines.
Look Beyond a Reporter’s Limitations
Despite these things, you need to look beyond the reporter’s limitations.
Why? Frustration or resentment on your part could lead to a communication breakdown and perhaps a negative story. By remaining open and cooperative, you may be able to educate the reporter in a non-threatening way.
Actually, providing an efficient education is one thing that’s tops on most reporters’ want lists of the people they interview. They need information and commentary relevant to their story, and they need you to provide those things, on the record.
Reporters want you to:
- Be open and cooperative
- Be available and prepared as soon as possible
- Provide relevant and accurate information
- Provide opinions based on fact; however, if you work for someone else, make sure these points are agreeable to the client or company
- Show a little personality, if appropriate
- Be patient with their questions
Now that you know more about reporters, it’s time to get ready to talk with them.
In my next entry, I’ll provide helpful steps you can take to prepare for the media interview.