RESPONDING TO UNEXPECTED MEDIA ENQUIRIES
What happens when reporters make a cold call?
Most people instinctively start talking. But you're not obliged to comment immediately.
Check the reporter's deadline and contact details. Ask them to forward story background and questions by email. Reassure them their inquiry will be dealt with, and there'll be an update within half an hour.
Now you should gather facts, and decide whether you are the best person to comment.
Never ignore a phone message from a reporter. And never forget to update them on progress - even if you decide not to comment.
The first thing to establish is whether the interview will be live or recorded. If you're nervous, ask for a recorded interview. You can then correct any major mistakes.
Most radio interviews are recorded for news bulletins on major networks like Radio New Zealand, Radio Live and NewsTalk ZB. You'll be contacted by a reporter who will record the interview directly to their computers, ready for editing.
Before you start, ask the reporter for an overview of the likely questions. If they raise questions you are not able - or not authorised - to discuss, let them know. It's best to set your guidelines before the interview.
Don't assume the reporter is well informed. Radio journalists can cover several stories in an hour. They often rely on your guidance for news angles and key points.
If you're contacted by a news programme like Morning Report, Nine to Noon, Mike Hosking Breakfast etc, similar questions apply. Ask: when do you need me? How long will the interview be? Will I be interviewed alone or with others? Is the interview live or recorded?
What they need from you...
A 20 second answer. That's more than enough for a typical radio interview. You can comfortably deliver 6 or 7 sentences in 20 seconds. So keep it brief and simple. If the presenter or reporter needs more detail, they will ask. It's their role to keep the conversation flowing and interesting.
Radio reporters can be the most persistent when it comes to demanding immediate interviews. They face tight deadlines, regular bulletins and a limited supply of news. This is their problem, not yours. But you should still try to cooperate. It is only natural they will want to be first to break or update a story. And radio reaches a large audience.
Descriptive language is essential. You need to paint a picture for listeners. They can't see your company's 'best practise' or 'critical path'. The best approach is to be conversational. Abandon the buzz words and mission statements. Just talk the way you would to a neighbour who has little or no understanding of your role or expertise.
A final reminder: don't be pressured into comment until you have gathered the facts. Delay any unexpected interview for at least 20 minutes. Use this time to check the details and consult with colleagues or support staff.
TVNZ provides studio guests with its own guideline on clothing. The guide recommends:
"Plain coloured shirts/top/jackets are preferable and please do not wear tops which are all white, all red, black or radically striped or cross hatched. No large logos/branding on clothing. We advise female guests to arrive with makeup applied. Our make-up artist will touch up where necessary."
Body language has been on display since caveman days.
It plays an important role in media engagement. Why? Because people constantly overlook the tell-tale signals they're sending to each other.
It's only natural that journalists will size you up from the moment they meet you. To project some warmth and enthusiasm, greet new arrivals with a smile, a firm handshake and steady eye contact.
Body language on TV
During TV interviews, look at the reporter, not the camera. A gentle smile during each question will leave you looking relaxed and confident as your give your response. If you are seated, lean slightly forward with arms on the table. This conveys enthusiasm. (When you're leading back in a chair or sofa, your head shrinks and your waistline appears bigger. Not flattering!) Hand gestures are fine for TV. But don't bring your hands near your face - this will be distracting.
Reporters are keen observers of body language. Here are some of the most common silent signals.
crossed arms: defensive
eye rubbing: doubt, disbelief
hand to cheek: evaluation, thinking
ear pulling: indecision
open palm: sincerity, honesty
tilted head: interest
seated legs apart: relaxed, open
pinching nose: negative evaluation
locked ankles: apprehension
patting hair: insecurity
tapping fingers: impatience
touching neck: protecting yourself
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