Media interviews are often quite tricky to navigate, especially if you haven’t done many before. When you’re talking about conversations with the media, you have to be just as careful. Many times when we set up media tours or prepare for tradeshows, we meet the media for meals or coffee. Despite the setting being more casual, the meeting is still one for information sharing and collecting, something you should always remember.

When speaking to the media (or in public settings), always remember:

  • Nothing is “Off the Record” – Very few things said in public are “off the record”. Just as easily as you say something, that sentence can be misconstrued. When speaking in public, establish and practice your key messaging points so that you know you say it right and the same way every time.

  • Don’t say anything you don’t feel comfortable seeing in print – The party line for the “Should I mention or say this?” question is. If you aren’t 100% certain that you want to see it in print, then it shouldn’t come out of your mouth. You can always add to the conversation, but it is very difficult to take things back.

  • The media will ask you questions you don’t have to answer – It is the job of the media to get answers. They often ask questions that they know that they won’t get the answer to, hoping that you may reveal something or make a mistake. Always make sure to think about the questions before answering. Do you really want to make a comment? If not, there is no problem in saying that you don’t want to answer a question. They expect that to happen sometimes. It will not ruin your relationships to be careful of what you say.

  • The media most likely won’t show you what they write before they print – I get executives asking me all the time if the reporter will send the story for “review” before it is published. The reporter has no obligation to share what they have written with you before it’s published. Which is even more reason to make sure the messages you are delivering are being conveyed properly. There are times, if reporters are very friendly or they need to check facts that they will have you review the article or certain facts on the article to confirm they got it right. That isn’t a typical practice, so you shouldn’t expect or even ask that from the reporter.

  • Backtracking doesn’t work – If an article prints and the facts are correct, the likelihood of you getting a change in quotes or the final article are slim to none. Typically, a reporter will only change an article if there is a factual inaccuracy. Again, another reason to make sure you are saying what you want. I often advise companies to stay away from mentioning the competition, unless it’s directly related and stay within their value proposition factual advantages, and topic expertise.

All this said, be careful what you say in both formal interviews and casual environments (like networking or coffee meetings). You and your team should communicate your messages and set what you are allowed to share publicly and what you MUST stay away from. Anything said in public environments can and will be picked up, especially with social media today. If you don’t want to be misquoted or misheard, make sure you know what you can and cannot say and how you want the brand to be presented before you speak in public.