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News media ground rules

To many people the thought of facing the news media is terrifying. There’s always the suspicion that well-meaning statements will be taken out of context, misconstrued, or misinterpreted to make the interviewee look bad.

To succeed, you need to understand how reporters work, what they need and how to focus on your organisation’s messages.

Answer questions

Listen carefully to the questions and give the requested information if it is available.  If you are not able to reveal the information – or if another source would be more appropriate – explain why.

Be truthful and accurate

Tell the truth – that way you don’t have to remember what you said!  Never attempt to mislead a journalist — the word will spread among the media that you cannot be trusted.

Keep it short

The more you say, the greater the chance you will say something unfortunate or your key message will be lost. Get to the point.  Be concise.  

Sound like a human not a robot

Answer questions with simple words, not jargon.

Be specific

Support your points with specific evidence – don’t talk in general terms.

Respect deadlines

Make sure the necessary and appropriate information is provided on time. Always return reporters’ calls, even if it’s just to tell them you can’t meet their needs.

Be consistent

Talk to the media during bad times as well as good times — it’s essential to establish your credibility.  Credibility with the media is especially important when editors and broadcasters decide how much weight to give your version of a controversial situation. Be pro-active; build relationships with journalists.