MEDIA POINT PERSON
The following are abbreviated trainings to help with interviews and interacting the media:
Media Point Person Training
Working with the news media is an important role that is vital to assisting and protecting the family and their reputation. The following are six quick tips to help you in your role as Media Point Person. Additionally, a more in-depth Media Point Person Training presentation is available and provides additional instructions, insights and techniques (this requires 20-30 minutes to complete).
1. Don’t Speak on Behalf of the Family
Be clear with the journalist that you are not authorized to speak on behalf of the family. Explain that your role is specifically working to coordinate requests and interviews so the family is able to respond in an effective manner especially since they are busy working to process and address the situation.
If asked specific questions, tell the reporter that you don’t know and/or that is something they would need to get from the Family Spokesperson. If asked to provide information off the record, politely decline and explain that you will work to get them answers.
2. Don’t Agree to an Interview/Response on the First Call or Email
Even if you are positive the family will want to respond and/or participate in an interview, inform the journalist that you will need to first get some information and then confer with the family to determine their interest and availability. This provides you with the ability to get important information from the journalist to help prepare for the interview (or develop a statement) and this also maintains the ability to negotiate timing, location and other details.
3. Ask the Right Questions During Intake
Find out as many details regarding the interview as possible, including deadline, story angle, possible questions, who else the reporter is speaking with, when the story will run, etc.
4. Employ the AMP (Anticipate, Message, Practice) Process
Work to anticipate possible questions and determine how the Family Spokesperson should respond. Develop proactive messaging for the Family Spokesperson to incorporate in the interview. Additionally, schedule time (at a minimum 5-10 minutes) before the interview to meet to simulate the interview with the Family Spokesperson. Be sure they audibly answer questions as part of the exercise. Finally, make sure the Family Spokesperson has completed Family Spokesperson Training.
5. Accompany the Family Spokesperson to all Interviews
You should serve as an agent/buffer for the spokesperson in all interviews (both in-person and by phone). This involves making introductions, setting a time limit, starting the conversation, taking notes on items when the media requests additional information and informing the journalist when there is time for “one last question.”
Please note during live interviews, the Media Point Person helps to get the interview setup and then observes from the background (off-camera) and does not participate or interrupt.
6. Be Diplomatic
Regardless of the situation, expressing anger at the media (even behind the scenes) rarely achieves anything productive for the family. This doesn’t mean you can’t be assertive. At the same time, it is imperative to always stay calm and work to be as diplomatic as possible. Remember the way in which you treat a journalist (or media organization) will affect the way in which they cover the family today and for weeks, months and even years to come.
Media Point Person Training Slides
Click the preview below to access the training
Media Spokesperson Training
Participating in media interviews may seem daunting. The following are 10 quick tips to help you prepare and successfully navigate through a media interview. Additionally, the following is a link to an in-depth Media Spokesperson Training presentation, which provides additional instruction, insights and techniques (and requires 30-45 minutes to complete).
1. Start with AMP: Anticipate, Message, Practice
Prepare for an interview by 1) anticipating possible questions and determining answers. 2) Develop 2-3 key messages to proactively communicate throughout the interview. And, 3) make time to practice answering questions aloud. This should be done in collaboration with your Media Point Person.
Even if you only have a few minutes, practice answering questions that someone (in your inner circle) asks as part of a simulated interview.
Work to get a grasp of the general idea of the answers and messages without memorizing so you sound natural (avoid being canned).
Do your best to keep it simple. Over rehearsing can be counterproductive.
Conduct practice interviews behind closed doors (not within sight or earshot of the media).
2. Avoid Saying No Comment
The words “No Comment” are very negative and imply someone is guilty, hiding something or being deceptive. Instead use one of the following:
“I can’t go into detail regarding that, but what I can tell you is…”
“For confidentiality purpose, that is something we can’t disclose”
“Because this is part of the ongoing investigation, we have been asked not to discuss, but what I can tell you is…”
“While I can’t go into specifics, what I can tell you is…”
“Your questions point out a common misperception, let me explain…”
“Until we have more information, all I can tell you is...”
3. Delegate Questions Outside of Your Purview
If you are asked to speak on behalf of someone else, or if you are asked a question that is more appropriate for another party, delegate the question. For example: if asked a question for law enforcement, kindly tell the reporter that it wouldn’t be appropriate to answer and that they need to ask law enforcement.
4. Delegate the Answer When You Don’t Know
It’s okay not to know the answer to a reporter’s question. Never guess or wing it. If you don’t know or aren’t sure of the answer, tell the reporter that you don’t know and that you will look into it and get back to them with the information.
5. Redirect When You Delegate Questions or Answers
When you direct a journalist to talk to a more appropriate source or tell them you will look into the question and get back to them, try to provide something useful that redirects the conversation.
Use this formula: “While I can’t speak about X, what I can tell you is Y.”
6. Don’t State or Repeat the Negative
Negative statements make good quotes and headlines. Work to affirm who and what you are instead of communicating the negative. If asked a negative question, instead of repeating this as part of the answer, use one of the following:
“That’s not the way we look at it…”
“We wouldn’t characterize it that way…”
“That is a common misperception, let me explain…”
“That is not the case anymore, let me explain when things changed…”
7. Avoid Answering Hypothetical Questions
The media will likely ask you hypothetical questions about possible outcomes, motives and scenarios. The answers to these can be very damaging and become a distraction. If you are asked a hypothetical question, tell the journalist you can’t speculate and then redirect.
8. Don’t Over Communicate
Reporters will often use silence after asking hard questions to make their subject feel uneasy and say more than they should. Stop talking after you have answered the question and let the reporter be the next one to speak even if there is a long, awkward silence.
9. Don’t Speak Off the Record or Say Anything You Don’t Want Reported
It is important to remember that anything you say to a journalist before and after a formal interview, as part of a phone conversation or even during an informal meeting could find its way into a story.
Also, avoid speaking “off the record.” Journalists have different understandings of this term and there are many instances when spokespeople have been burned.
If asked to speak off the record, politely decline and reiterate what you can tell the journalist (on the record).
10. Relax and Think/Be Positive
Take a few minutes before an interview or press conference to let go and relax. Get a drink of water, practice breathing or power poses. Be confident going into the interview and think and be positive.