Who hasn’t winced at those ‘gotcha’ moments in media interviews, particularly during this Election campaigns?
When Greens leader Adam Bandt responded to a gotcha-style question with ‘Google it, mate’, he was right on the money. But what are other ways to avoid being caught on the hop?
Here’s the start of a list gleaned from professional experience and high-profile journalists and academics interviewed for the ABDC’s communications guide.
- Establish the areas the journalist wants to cover. If they’re not in your field of expertise, say so and see if you can pass the opportunity to a colleague. (This will prevent you possibly making a fool of yourself – and your colleague may return the favour by directing more appropriate media to you)
- Be clear on your boundaries. Know what you can and can’t say, or will and won’t say
- Practice the key points you want to get across before the interview
- Review any relevant research, statistics and data. Have fast facts at hand
- Be prepared for the worst possible things you could be asked.
Minimise the chance of unwelcome surprises. Identify hot issues and practise your response with your communications expert (if
you have one) or a savvy colleague.
- If you think a journalist may be setting you up or have an underlying negative agenda, decline the interview. Remember the
journalist has final say over the story. Do you really want to play with fire?
- Don’t discuss areas outside of your expertise. ‘I’m not the right person to answer that question’ is a reasonable response
- If a journalist’s questions include inflammatory words you don’t like, don’t repeat them in your answer. Otherwise you may supply an unintended, but very quotable, quote.
- Unless you have a strong trusting relationship with a journalist,
assume EVERYTHING you say is on the record – including before
and after the interview. Also remember microphones can be much
more sensitive than human ears.