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Tips to manage a tricky media interview

Last week an expert asked me about a common interview scenario, which frequently plays out in a radio or TV setting.

“What if I don’t agree with the host’s opinion, or they have their facts wrong?  How do I interject politely or make my view clearly known in a respectful way?”

If you’re new to media or haven’t been interviewed by a range of different people, it’s natural to be unsure about how to manage this scenario without seeming arrogant or argumentative and without rocking the boat.

First, if you’ve been asked to do an interview to give your opinion on a topic you’re well versed in or to present your strong position on an issue, you’re well within your rights to set the record straight if you feel you’ve been misrepresented, have had words put in your mouth, or are presented with a conflicting position that you don’t agree with.

Here are some tools to put in your communications and interview arsenal, to get your point across.

“I respect your opinion (insert their name) but can I just counter with my position which is …”

“I understand that’s what some might think but this is where I sit on the subject …”

“What you’re saying is what I’ve also heard but this is where we’re at …

If you don’t get the right moment to counter in the flow of the conversation, and it feels like you might miss the opportunity to correct something or to deliver your position, try these:

“Just before we move on, my position on the matter is …”

“Can I clarify a point that was just made …”

“I just want to pick up on something that was said a few moments ago …”

In the case of talkback radio, offering a different opinion is welcomed. It generates debate and even a mild level of conflict will result in talkback callers wanting to offer their view. Just make sure it’s done in a way that is respectful because no one wants to be made to look a fool, be castigated or have their view dismissed.

If it’s a prerecorded television news interview, often a reporter or producer will ask if anything has been missed or if you want to add anything.  The journalist does this because they might not be completely across the topic and you as the expert, have the knowledge. This is your chance to cover off anything you previously failed to cover adequately, and to deliver some short sharp key messages. Often, it’s these extra quotes that make it into the story.

If you’ve ever been ambushed by an antagonistic talkback host, or presented with facts and figures that are plainly wrong in an interview, it can be frustrating. Just remember, the golden rule in any interview is to not lose your cool.

You have the right to disagree, to counter, to provide another point of view but you need to do it calmly, swiftly and succinctly.

By Nic Hayes, Managing Director of Media Stable

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