direction, subject, interview, corporate writing

Stick to your subject

An issue facing a lot of my media training clients and also the people who write for the magazine I edit is that they don’t know what they’re talking about. I should rephrase. They know what they need to talk about and are consummate experts on it. Then they talk about something else.

Let me give you an example. On my magazine we have a lot of experts writing for us – academics, analysts, definitely experts. They want the exposure but they buy completely into the idea that we are independent. It works, with the occasional hiccup – like a few weeks ago when someone sent an article in saying “I thought, rather than write about the subject set, I’d do something related.”

Alarm bells time. The writer had no idea what else might be going into the publication. So by deliberately moving away from the set subject he risked duplication. This is all but never going to work.


There’s a related issue when interviewees accidentally tell me something more interesting than they should. I had a guy in my media training sessions once and asked my standard warm-up question/call to action, “Tell me about yourself and your company”.

His response was” “A, I think I know what you’ve heard. It is a fact that if you asked my last employer whether I was sacked or walked out, there would be a disagreement between him and me – but let me tell you, I was not sacked…”

Beyond that point I was not remotely interested in anything his current company had to say. He had made the mistake of interesting me in something completely irrelevant at best, to his detriment at worst.


Both of these issues can be overcome by preparation and targeting. Always prepare for an engagement with the press by thinking: what is the magazine, who are its readers and how do I engage with them? After this, apply your marketing messages. How do you make your points whilst still fulfilling our needs? There is almost always a way.

That way you get to deliver your thought leadership or marketing messages without telling us you’ve written something off-topic, and if you’ve done your thinking beforehand you won’t accidentally tell us something more interesting than the thing you’d like us to write about.

It’s about picking a subject, pointing yourself at it and then continuing down that path, regardless. It sounds easy, but how often, if you talk to the press, do you do it?

For information on Guy Clapperton’s media training sessions click here.

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