This tip is so obvious that we often overlook its importance.
When you talk to a reporter, decide that you want to be there. I put that right at the top as the best and most useful of all general tips. And it applies to every medium: not only television, but also radio, internet media, and even newspapers.
Why is this tip so important?
You might think that the important point is to express your key message concisely and correctly.
Working on crisp key messages is vital - it's part of normal media training - but in my years with the media I have seen countless well-worded key messages delivered in such a way that no one took any notice. In other words, a waste of good words. The real point is to express your message so that the audience takes notice of it, understands it, absorbs it and takes it away with them. That's a message with impact.
Why your audience might want to listen
Imagine sitting in the living room of the average member of the public. Just you and a couple of every-day people. You're a first time visitor and your hosts are deciding whether or not to listen to you or show you the door. Ask yourself this: what do they decide if you seem defensive or reluctant to be there? Yes, it's a no-brainer. Most people turn on their ears only when we show that we want to be in their company. It's part of a very powerful (though often subconscious) link between our desire to liked and our ability to focus our attention.
So let's take the tip even further. Your manner and style should convey: I want to be here in your living room, I like talking to you and answering your questions, I'm keen to explain or clarify for you.
That also applies to admissions of error and apologies.
What about print media?
Is deciding you want to be speaking to the media important even with newspapers? Why would it make a difference when the words are printed? Because the reporter is still a real person who - no matter how objective he or she tries to be - can't help but be affected by you. That affects the way he or she listens to and selects from the material you offer. Which affects the printed article. The same applies to talking to any reporter on the phone.
Choose to want to be there
Unless you're a good actor, you can't fake wanting to be there. What you can do is stop thinking that you're talking to (oh my god) the media. You're not. You're talking to one individual at a time through an electronic device or newspaper. How do you feel about real individuals when the media are not involved?
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