Many media spokespeople get into trouble during media interviews because they treat them like presentations.
What they forget is that reporters will only use small snippets of what they say in the subsequent story. Apart from live broadcast interviews, this means that anything you say needs to be able to stand on its own. For example, if you were asked, “Could more of your workers be injured after this freak accident?”
Your natural instinct may be to say, “We can’t rule out more injuries, but we’ve got first class safety precautions that are well above the industry standard.”
If you are giving a presentation, this would be a perfectly reasonable answer because your audience would hear your whole answer. But if you said this to a journalist, she may only use the first part of your answer in the story. Then the angle of the story could be that more injuries are possible.
Instead you could have said this: “The safety of our workers is our top priority. That’s why we’ve got safety precautions in place that are well above the required industry standard.”
You can see from that answer that you would be comfortable with the reporter using any part of it.
How many times have you heard spokespeople complain that they were quoted out of context? This happens all the time. The problem is that there is never room for the entire interview to be used in the subsequent story, unless it is live. That is why a reporter will only use what he or she considers the most interesting responses you give.
What this means is that you have to make sure that anything you say can stand by itself. If it can’t, you risk being quoted out of context and the story angle being something completely different from what you intended.
The risk of this happening has grown over recent years as media outlets find themselves under pressure to entertain as well as inform. This means they are more likely to quote you out of context if it increases the likelihood of readers clicking on those stories when visiting online news sites.
The key here is to dress up the points you want to make in interesting ways that will meet the reporter’s needs. This should be your aim because it allows you to get your points across while also helping the reporter produce an interesting story.