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Suppose you've just made a point in a media interview, and the interviewer says, "So what you're saying is..." Count on it, whatever words follow that, your meaning will be modified - anything from a harmless nuance to an emotionally-loaded torpedo that will sink your career. So, when should you say Yes?

Is it ever okay to agree with the reporter's restatement of your point?

In soft, feature interviews - especially when no-one has strong feelings about the topic except you - saying 'Yes' probably isn't critical to your well being.

But in hard news reporting it's much more likely that many people have an emotional attachment to your responses - especially in your own organisation.

A general rule for how to respond effectively

Here's a good general rule.

Don't say Yes - even if the reporter's interpretation is 95% right and 5% wrong. Instead, follow with, What I'm saying is... then re-state your own meaning to make it clearer.

You: "We've had difficulty arranging a meeting with them."
Interviewer: "So what you're saying is that they're refusing to negotiate."
You: "What I'm saying is that the logistics of time and place are difficult. We're working on it."
OR (in a probe-and-destroy interview) repeat exactly the words you used the first time.

You owe the public clarity. Your clarity, not the reporter's.

But to be fair to reporters and interviewers, some are skilled at helping us clarify our own meaning. Some will get it exactly right in words we never thought of. In which case, we can say Yes and feel some gratitude for that skill.



Interested in a workshop on media skills for your team?

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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