When you do an interview with a journalist, you might think the answer to that question is fairly simple.
The journalist is merely a vessel, a mouthpiece, a conduit.
Through him or her, you are talking to a potentially far wider audience, the general public.
In all your interviews, you need to tailor what you say to which particular bit of the general public you want to reach.
So are you a professional body hoping to influence government policy? Are you a charity hoping to raise funds or recruit more volunteers? Are you a membership body trying to win more members? Are you trying to change public perceptions about your industry? Are you a learned society trying to demonstrate your expertise? Or are you simply trying to sell something?
Whatever your aim, you must adjust your language and keep messages accordingly.
For example, if you want to enhance your reputation or increase your influence, you might use phrases such as:
‘What we recommend is …’
‘In our meetings with government …’
‘When we produced our most recent report/white paper into x …’
‘What our membership are telling us is …’
But it’s not quite as simple as just targeting one audience and tailoring your message to that to the exclusion of all else.
If you do that, you risk mortally offending other audiences which are important to you.
So, if you are interviewed about a government initiative about which you have doubts, and you give a fair and frank response to questions about your views, it could play well with other stakeholders, but it could also have a long-lasting impact on your relationship with government. And therefore, on your ability to influence said government initiative.
Now I’m not suggesting you should always sit on the fence. If you do that, no journalist will ever want to interview you.
I’m not suggesting you should lie about your views– that would be disastrous and not something we would ever advocate.
What I am suggesting is that you give some thought in advance about how you are going to frame your answers to those tricky questions. And you exercise a little judgement and diplomacy in what you say, and ensure that what you say is constructive and if necessary, avoids giving a direct answer.
All of which takes preparation.
So before you go into an interview – make sure you know what your organisation’s key messages are and who they are aimed at, make sure you know what questions are likely to come up, and make sure you know how to answer each one in a way which enables you to deliver said key messages.
If your spokespeople would benefit from some practice interviews or media training, then just give us a call on 020 8332 6200 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.