In many other cases though, people make assumptions about encounters with reporters that simply aren't true. Here are the three biggest myths.
The Reporter Will Be Out to Get Me
Stop it. Unless you’re a top-level politician, or the head of a huge company that has ripped off the public, reporters won’t be out to get you.
The fact of the matter is, reporters today are far too busy to try to “get” almost anyone. They just want to get your side of the story for the piece they’re working on and then they’ll either need to talk to somebody else, or put their final story together.
Ask yourself why a reporter would be out to get you if you speak for an industry association, a charitable group or government? Why would they want to do that? In my experience, there’s a certain amount of paranoia that creeps in when somebody suggests the reporter is out to “get” them.
There’s little doubt many reporters do come with agendas when they interview people. In other words, they ask questions hoping the answer they get will fit into the story they’re putting together. That doesn’t mean you need to change your answer. It may be the reporter’s story, but it’s your interview. Answer questions the way you have prepared to answer them, regardless of the direction the reporter wants to take the interview in.
I'll Be Misquoted or My Words Will Be Taken Out of Context
This happens far less often than most people believe. More often than not, somebody will say the wrong thing and then say their comments were taken out of context.
Quite often reporters will actually work with people they’re interviewing to make sure they don’t say something they shouldn’t, by asking the person to clarify their comments. This provides a check to ensure if the person said something controversial they meant to say it. That doesn’t sound like a reporter being out to “get” the person they’re interviewing, or trying to misquote them.
Last week it happened to Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane after he made somewhat controversial comments about a lack of playing time. He said his comments were taken out of context. No they weren’t. Reporters just reported what he said. That’s their job.
I find people sometimes aren’t happy with the sound bite or quote used by the reporter. That’s not being misquoted. That’s just the reporter using his or her editorial authority to use what they want from the interview.
If you’re still concerned about being misquoted, find ways to repeat what you’re saying to drive home your point. It’s pretty challenging for a reporter to misquote you when you make your point two or three times, using different words.
I'll Say Something I'll Regret
That’s a “you thing” now isn’t it?
You can’t blame the reporter if you say something you shouldn’t that embarrasses you, or the organization you work for. You would only have yourself to blame for that.
Here’s the thing though. Once you have done media training and truly understand how to prepare for the interview, why would you say something you’ll regret? You will have anticipated the questions, decided how you will respond to those questions and as a result, your interview likely won’t be perfect (few are) but chances are you won’t say something so bad you’ll be embarrassed by it.
When you know what you’re going to say before you say it, you say it better. That’s something important I learned many years ago and make sure in every media training workshop I stress the importance of understanding it.
Like everything else, we get better by doing. That means experience counts when people do media interviews. One you’ve done a few, chances are you’ll be more relaxed and will worry less about saying the wrong thing. Until you get that experience, just make sure you’re well prepared for the interview and the questions you’ll get.
There’s no need to ask for questions in advance though. Reporters don’t like that for a number of reasons, so rather than asking for a list of questions, just get prepared for the questions you expect to get.
If you have a media interview, prepare properly, relax and remember that this is an opportunity for you to tell your organization’s story. Look at it as something positive, instead of negative and you’ll be much more confident about doing a solid media interview.