Interacting with the Media, Part Two: Think like a Reporter


Last week we discussed dos and don’ts when interacting with the media. This week I’d like to help you think like a reporter, because let’s face it: talking with reporters can on occasion make you break out in hives, if you let your mind run amuck. So focus, focus, focus!

The interview experience: You’ve got your game face on. The interview seems to be going well. But you're unnerved because the reporter seems to be ignoring important stuff and focusing on things you really don't want to talk about. That's because the entire time you’re talking, reporters typically filter out what they think is unimportant and focus in on the things they think are newsworthy.

That's what you need converge what you need to say with what the reporter needs to write a solid news story.
Limit your interview content: Make no mistake about it: reporters are filtering agents. It’s their job to write a quality story that others are going to be interested in. Truthfully, you have no control over what a reporter chooses to do with the things you’ve said - but you CAN limit the editorial choices the reporter derives from the interview. After all, if you focus on what you want to talk about - or at least are willing to talk about - and segue away from the things you don't - you can have confidence that your messages will be consistent with what you really want to communicate.

Other voices: Never forget that the reporter can (and maybe is obligated to) juxtapose what you have to say with someone else who disagrees with your point of view - or even says you're crazy. But that's not your problem, because you can never control those reporter decisions. You need to know going in, that that comes with the territory when being interviewed by a reporter.

Preparation: What you do have control over is the preparation prior to the interview. By knowing what your mission is for the interview and what you want to say, you can stay focused. This eliminates the wiggle room for a reporter to lead you astray to the topics you don’t want to discuss. Like I said last week, limit yourself to three main things that you want to talk about under the context of one theme.

Narrow the focus: The broader your vision is for an interview, the more likely it is that a reporter will write about something you don't think is especially important - or something you don’t necessarily want to discuss. Why? Because you’re not focused. By staying focused, you can give reporters what they need for a story that keeps your content focus in mind.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. What should your topic/three focal points be? What does it mean to be newsworthy? Here are some of the major concepts reporters have in mind when they’re filtering. They can help you define the content you want to "pitch" for news coverage:

  • Timeliness - Is this a current topic that people can relate to right now?
  • Proximity - is this topic relevant to something important to the community?
  • Impact - Does this topic affect others? Locally, state-wide, nationally?
  • Prominence - Does this topic involve anyone that is well-known that might get people’s attention?

Make sure you’ve considered these things when preparing your topic. And when you're interviewing, highlight these things so that a reporter is more inclined see your story as highly relevant to readers.

Conclusion: Never underestimate the power of preparation when you’re interacting with the media and don’t forget to think like a reporter when you're determining the content for your interview.