If you’re buying a house you don’t simply turn up on the day and purchase. It takes detailed research to identify the area you wish to live and how much you can afford. While very different to buying a house, conducting a media interview also requires research, planning and preparation. Before agreeing to an interview, ask yourself these three questions:
- Do you really have something to say?
- What’s your benefit from providing an interview?
- Why has a journalist approached you?
With some effort, you’ll be able to make an informed judgement as to whether the media interview is in your favour or not.
Do you really have something to say?
Maybe, but chances are you will be categorised as an economy story. Economy stories don’t appeal to everyone but some will find it interesting. In order to ‘sell’ your story to a wider audience you need to move away from commentary on why your product or service is amazing and how everybody needs it. That’s the stuff of Danoz Direct and they peaked in the 90s. Refocus, so the emphasis is not the product or service but the user of it. Through market research you should have identified why people need what you do, this starts to inform the narrative of what you say.
“Take the kids to the beach” is far more appealing than “Our products will half your cleaning time”. Essentially they both elude to the same message but one is more creative while the other highlights up unpleasant imagery, cleaning. No journalist (or audience) want to hear you flogging what you’re selling. Journalists are looking for a story (narrative) and if you don’t have it, they won’t wait until you do.
What’s your benefit from providing an interview?
It’s your reputation. Whether or not you conduct an interview is your call. The common saying “bad publicity is good publicity” is factually incorrect. Note: Donald Trump is not evidence to the contrary. Journalists are under pressure to deliver more content, often when stories are hard to find. This coupled with the 24 hour news cycle means we have a “media beast” that needs to be fed. As a result, we have the rise of “gotcha” journalism where the slightest mistake (forgetting a statistic or a person’s name) is amplified ruining credibility. We all move on but the time you stripped to your budgies at the Malaysian Grand Prix is only an internet search away (forever). First analysis what the benefit is of doing something (in this case a media interview), if there’s no obvious advantage you can pass.
Why has a journalist approached you?
As if the abovementioned wasn’t hard enough, now you have to judge the motivation of a journalist. This is an important point as it could be a stitch-up. During the 2013 federal election campaign, 774 ABC mornings presenter, Jon Faine interviewed a candidate from Melbourne’s west. Most candidates immersed themselves in their electorate, not this one. Her electorate familiarity consisted of her boyfriend travelling to Werribee for Christmas once. To a journalist, that’s a free kick and could be one reason this program wanted the interview in the first place.
Think about it. She was just a candidate competing for preselection, it was in a safe-seat for her party, the radio studio had a TV camera recording (normally reserved for high ranking politicians), and her story doesn’t appeal outside of the electorate she’s competing for. This starts to look like a set-up and she fell for it. Soon after the interview she withdrew her candidacy.
Apply this logic. Research and plan when assessing if conducting a media interview at a particular time, on a particular issue will reap the reward you desire. If you see no advantage in it, you’re not obliged to say yes.