Gain control in media interviews

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When Dairy Management Inc.’s David Pelzer recently conducted an interview with Dow Jones News Service, he used a media control technique that is simple, yet seldom used. He asked the reporter to feed back what he had heard so far in the interview, in order to gauge his comprehension.

Q: What approach did you employ when talking with the reporter?

The reporter asked a difficult question at the beginning of the interview that required a complicated answer. After answering a few other questions, I asked the reporter if we could go back to that question. Then, I asked him, “What was your understanding of the answer?”

Q: What are the benefits of asking the reporter a few key questions?

Asking questions of the reporter during an interview helps you understand how well they are listening, and helps you determine how well you are getting your message across. It also gives you a peek into how the reporter is framing the story. This gives you a preview of where the story is going and how the reporter will be quoting you. When you hear your words repeated verbatim, it is a good clue they captured it as a quote. If the reporter feeds back inaccurate information, this gives you an immediate opportunity to correct it.

Q: What are some questions to ask reporters when they first make contact?

  • What media outlet do you represent?
  • What is the story about?
  • What triggered this story?
  • What is your deadline?
  • Are you speaking with other sources for your story? If so, with whom?
  • May I call you back in XX minutes? (This helps give yourself time to jot down your key talking points and questions you may have for the reporter.)
  • Have you ever been on a farm? A dairy farm?
  • What is your background knowledge about (insert topic)?
  • How long will the interview last?
  • What is your contact information?

Q: What are some potential questions to ask during the interview?

  • Is the information I’m giving you relevant to your story?
  • What is your take-away from what I just told you?
  • Is what I’m telling you different from what you may have heard from your other sources? Would you like me to repeat the numbers or data that I just gave you? Or, just to make sure I’ve said it right, can you repeat them for me?
  • Could I follow up with additional information that I could fax or e-mail to you?

Q: How should you close an interview?

Pending the interview topic, consider giving the reporter a fact sheet on the topic to reinforce your message. These techniques reduce your chance of being misquoted, and help tell dairy’s story.

Source: Dairy Management Inc.



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