Tips on Speaking to the Media/Press About Your Club or Event
One of the best ways to keep off-road motorsports alive is to talk it up! Letting people know what we do, why we love it, and what it means to our families is the gateway to keeping our access open. Talking to the press, media or an online blogger is a great way to spread the word. But there are some caveats…
Here are my tips on speaking to the press/media. When confronted with a microphone or camera from a member of the media, keep in mind that they love excitement and conflict. In fact, if they can drum up controversy to make their story more newsworthy, they usually will. So, for us, the best thing to do is to always be prepared.
Speaking to the press means having bullet points that you stick with, much like the testimony formula mentioned earlier. Make your bullet points, speak them, and stick to them. If the interviewer tries to twist up the questioning, just revert to your bullet points and stick to them. Some journalists will hammer away at you with biased or loaded questions to wear you down until they get the answer that they want. Don’t give them that answer, especially if it is not the truth, as it will be taken out of context and used against you.
Shannon Campbell, rockstar and King, being interviewed by Lance Clifford back during the days of Pirate4x4 TV.
Very important to remember when dealing with the press is to answer the question then stop talking. Yes, stop talking. Remember, most reporters are not your friends, think before you speak and avoid jargon.
Don’t succumb to the urge to fill space or feel obligated that you must be talking. It’s up to the interviewer to make sense out of your interview and to fill space. DO NOT forget this. Practice this.
Have a friend stick a pretend microphone in front of your face while asking stupid, fast and repetitive questions (about a subject you both agree upon). Answer the questions and stop talking. Use your bullet points or key messages you want to deliver.
No matter how many microphones and reporters, learn to answer the question and STOP talking.
Let’s take a simple (and silly) example using my speech above about how to give a speech. Scenario: A reporter asks me after the speech why I wear a blue shirt when giving a speech. I say something like: “I like blue and public speaking is really about following the formula of ‘tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.’” I stop talking.
The reporter then asks why I was sipping my coffee while giving my speech in my blue shirt. I answer, “It’s important in public speaking to accept one’s nervousness and to connect with the audience.” And I stop talking.
The point here, again, is to not fill space that usually ends up being a hole for you to dig yourself out of. Answer the question and stop talking. Use your bullet points and key messages. It works every time. Do it with a smile too.
Announcers like Dustin Webster know how to use a microphone to their advantage — if you need more tips, talk to a pro.
You can always use a 3 x 5 card (with your key messages or bullet points) when dealing with the press. If they don’t want you looking at the card while on camera, then they can put your notes on a flip chart or whatever, just out of camera range. Admit when you don’t know the answer to a question and let them know you will follow up with them with the answer. Avoid saying “No Comment.”
The point being, you CAN use notes and refer to them. Do not fake it or attempt to handle a complicated subject from memory unless you’ve had a lot of practice.
Remember that nearly every public speaker on TV uses Teleprompters or some cue cards somewhere out of our line of sight. It’s accepted that we all need cheat sheets when confronted with a microphone or camera. It’s ok. As far as I’m concerned, it is more than ok to use notes while talking in public (more on that here).
If you see someone in a safety colored vest taking pics, you can assume they’re media — offer to give an interview about your club/event on the spot!
And no, there is nothing off the record. When a reporter or editor is talking to you, just think of it as public info. Everything you say can be printed or repeated. Follow the golden rule: “if in doubt, leave it out.”
1. Have your bullet points listed and memorized (or in front of you).
2. Practice your speech/bullet points.
3. Make your point and stop talking.
4. Don’t “fill gaps” when the reporter pauses.
5. Answer questions yet keep referring back to your key points.
6. Consider everything you say printable; nothing is “off the record.”
7. Be nice; be firm; and be on point – deliver your key messages.
Big events like Reno Rocks 4×4 from a decade ago require big media and pr (press releases).
Stick to your guns; use your “cue” cards; do it with a smile, and make hay for your cause or topic. It really is fun once you get the formula down.
More from ModernJeeper on giving a speech in public with tips and tricks to ease your fear here.