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For Parents: Tips on Talking with the Media


Interview Preparation Guidelines

  • Preparation is the key to success in any interview situation. Prepare your agenda thoroughly before the interview begins.
  • Be responsive by steering the interview to your key topics. You have a right to state your points - and restate them.
  • Take control of the interview at your earliest opportunity. You never do an interview to answer questions; interviews are done to make points.
  • Tailor the message to the media and the audience. The "must air" points for one interview will not necessarily be the right ones for the next interview.
  • Keep it tight. Long-winded answers invite misinterpretation of your positions and diminish your effectiveness and credibility. Give a headline response, then elaborate only to the degree that is appropriate.
  • Eye contact is critical to credibility. Look the interviewer right in the eye. Especially when the questioning is hostile or negative.
  • Use examples, illustrations and comparisons to help your interviewer or audience understand your positions.
  • Don't be defensive. Put your points across firmly and confidently. The interview is a chance for you to tell your story, not a ritual for persecution.
  • Bottom line first is the key to a successful response. If you wind gradually into your conclusion, you invite misunderstanding and suspicion.
  • Always be friendly and courteous with interviewers even if they don't return the favor. Don't be timid and passive.
  • Clear language and concise responses are essential to success.
  • Debrief after every exposure to the media. What did you do right and what could you have done better? This is how great newsmakers get to be great.

Media Management Tips

  • Use an interview as an opportunity. Remember: a reporter can help deliver your message to your most important audience.
  • Remember that you cannot control the reporter's presentation of the story, but you can control your input into the story.
  • Know your message points and repeat them often. Use pauses in the interview to restate them.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, say so and then try to get the information for the reporter in a timely manner.
  • Time spent in an interview may not (and usually does not) equate with the amount of space a story receives.
  • Assume everything you say is "on the record." Never say anything you wouldn't want to see in print or hear on the news.
  • Corrections, no matter how significant, never receive the space or visibility the original article did.
  • Reporters do not:
    • write headlines;
    • decide where the story runs;
    • choose photos;
    • write photo captions.
  • Don't use jargon and medical terms that are meaningless to the audience.
  • Practice your sound bites - short, easily quoted statements that capture your key message points.
  • Don't forget that today's junior writers will be calling the shots tomorrow. Handle your investment of time with them wisely.
  • Accessibility makes you a reporter's best asset. News, like medicine, is not a 9-5 business.

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For Parents: Tips for Talking with the Media
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