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Sure it’s exciting to get a call from a journalist But before you start answering questions there are several you’d better ask. Or you could very publicly end up in very hot soup. And it’ll be entirely your own fault.
What’s Next Online interviewed publicity expert and former newspaper editor Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound about the questions you absolutely must ask a reporter before you agree to be interviewed.
What’s Next Online: Why question the reporter?
Stewart: You need to know what the story is about before you agree to be part of it. Let’s say a reporter calls and says “I want to ask you about your customer service policy.”
You are so excited to be talking to a reporter that you talk all about your policies. The next day, you see your policies in an article about ways that small businesses fleece customers through non-existent or flimsy policies. Even if you are quoted as a positive example. you may still be guilt by association.
What’s Next Online: When should you refuse to be interviewed? Isn’t that dangerous?
: If it happens to be a bad news story or one that will not put you in favorable light, you have to decide if you want to do it.
If you say no, and the story is not about you directly, you don’t have to comment on it. Many times, a reporter will have to come up with a story for the next day’s paper and will track down a rumor or lead and end up calling you.
A good thing to say to the reporter is “I am irrelevant to the story. I don’t think it has anything to do with me.” A good tactic is to refer them to people you think they should call.
That can usually assure you they will hang up in a hurry to get on to the next source.
If the story does have to do with you, you should comment, but you always want control.
What’s Next Online: What are some other questions should you ask the reporter who calls to interview you?
Stewart: Can you tell me what the story is about? If you don’t know the answer, you shouldn’t be talking to the reporter.
Once you know the topic, ask them, “What angle are you taking?.” It’s a nice way of asking, “do you have an agenda or a pre-conceived notion?” Often they will tell you, but rarely will they volunteer unless you ask.
Related articles by B.L. Ochman about successful ways to ace interviews
10 Must-Know Media Interview Skills
What’s Next Online Interview: Expertizing — How to Become Known As An Expert