You’ve just spoken to a journalist and guess what – it didn’t go well. This cropped up in a media training session this week – one of the delegates dried up twice in the same interview. First he said he didn’t know the answer to something, and second he felt he just dried up, not wanting to say the same thing again.
The ironic thing is that the first answer was perfect. I’ve seen many interviews go wrong both for the journalist and the interviewee because someone didn’t know the answer to something and made something plausible up instead. This never, ever, works.The journalist will go away and write your answer up and both of you will end up looking stupid.
The issue in this week’s session was twofold. First, the media training delegate hadn’t done it before, he wasn’t yet confident. Believe it or not, admitting that you don’t know something requires actual confidence. You should never be afraid to say you don’t have a particular statistic or even that you’ve gone blank on something. I don’t want inaccurate material in my article any more than you want it in your coverage.
The second point was that I’d asked the delegate something outside his immediate expertise. Once again, he hadn’t yet found the confidence to pass the question on to someone who’d know. If you’re in (say) your marketing department and I ask something very technical, there’s no problem in telling me you don’t have the information but offering to get a technical person to call. You could refer the thing to your PR people who will find the right person to help me. If you’re speaking on behalf of your business you should never feel that I’m talking just to you, I’m talking to your company. If there’s someone who can answer my question better you’re doing me a favour if you facilitate that.
I might say I need the quote right now, I’ve seen journalists do this. But that’s not your problem, you don’t work for me and you’re not bound by my deadlines. In the longer term, you don’t want to say something inaccurate and I don’t want it in my copy.
Be confident enough to tell me if you don’t know something. That’s not the same as drying up.
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