That's not a contradiction. Yes, talk to reporters, but don't make the mistake of thinking that the media are your audience.

How treating the media as your audience can make you less credible

I once spoke to a detective sergeant at a crime scene, just before my TV news camera was ready. In a warm relaxed fashion he told me, "We got him. He came out the door, across the lawn, nipped over the fence and off through the trees. Picked him up in Carlyle Street." Fine. Very clear.

I suggested that when the camera was ready, he might like to repeat that for the news. He agreed. And in front of the camera, here's how he put the same story.

"The alleged offender proceeded east, in an easterly direction, across the lawn. Then he attempted to escape from custody by elevating himself over the obstacle in his path, namely the fence. He then executed a left turn, proceeding..."

And so on... all with his face devoid of human warmth. He shifted from speaking to a person, to speaking to the news media and lost his credibility.

Your real audience

When you speak to the media, your audience is one or two ordinary people sitting in their living rooms, reading, listening or viewing the news. I call them the sofa people. You're in their living room. You're a first time visitor to their house, keen to have your say, but also respectful of their feelings.

So here's the most practical advice I can offer for when you speak to a reporter... talk to the reporter as if he or she is one of the sofa people. That advice becomes even more important when your topic is contentious.

And here's a terrific bonus if you follow that advice: your colleagues and bosses - when asked to choose between you talking to real people, and you sounding important or official for the media - will almost always choose the first.

Michael