Responding to the Media

Taking media calls

Reporters may call for your reaction to comments or events. At times these may be cold calls, asking you to respond to something that you have not heard about. The stakes can be high, so be sure to negotiate the interview. You can respond immediately (if you feel prepared), or promise to call back at an agreed time prior to deadline. Here’s how.

Negotiate the interview – ask the journalist what she wants to know and about her deadline. You can respond immediately (if you feel prepared), or promise to call back at an agreed time prior to deadline. This provides you with time to research the questions asked and respond to them. If you can’t answer
a question, say so.

How to do interviews

You have a message to convey and a target for it. Try to use interviews to get your message out.
If a reporter’s questions contain too many “what ifs”, say that you don’t know what may or may not happen. But usually you can turn loose or flawed questions to your advantage.

If, for example, a reporter is asks you about rumours of an election, or how many seats you expect
your party to win, use a “bridge” to turn a hypothetical question into a chance to talk about your message.

You might say, “I don’t know about an election, but I do know that the our party has been trying to make parliament work.”

You should always have examples at hand to support you core message. In this case, the facts might be described as follows: “We told the Liberals we wanted a budget that helped people get affordable housing, public transit and lower tuition fees – and we achieved that for Canadians.”

Your research should prepare you to be specific about what impact your efforts will have locally – how many houses might be built, how much will a student save if tuition fees are frozen or lowered.

You should liven up your message by building in sound bites that make it more likely the reporter will use your comments — “The difference here is that the Prime Minister shirks while our leader works.”

Keep your answers brief – the longer your response, the more likely you will go off message or say something unintended.

Be truthful, but that does not mean telling everything that you know.

Dealing with trick questions

If asked a baited question, do not repeat it in your reply.

“Your opponent says you are a liar and a crook. What do you say to that?”

Do not say, “I am not a liar and I am not a crook.”

Try this: “My opponent says a lot of things, but the truth is we don’t have enough affordable housing
in this community and I want to do something about it.”

Television Interviews

When being interviewed on location, ignore the camera and talk to the reporter.

When being interviewed by a reporter or host in studio, talk directly to that person.

Sit comfortably but straight up in your chair. If on a couch or deep chair, be sure to sit straight up.

Rest your hands on your knees or on the arm of the chair.

Be sure that your jacket or blazer is properly set – if it is long enough you might want to sit on its
hem so the jacket doesn’t ride up.

You will likely be asked to use a lapel microphone – it works best when you wear a jacket, along with
a shirt (or blouse) with buttons.

If you do cross your legs, do so in a closed stance and toward the interviewer.

If you are on a television call-in show, talk to the host, but directly to the camera when responding to a caller. Be polite to callers, even if they are unfriendly – pitch your message to other, more reasonable, members of the audience.

There may be several cameras in studio – the one with a red light glowing is live.

If you are being interviewed where the host is in one location and you are alone with a camera, talk to the camera, or a slight bit to one side of it.

If you need makeup for a studio interview, the station will provide it. Female interviewees often prefer
to use their own makeup.