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Its CNN! They Want To Talk To You!

Being invited to appear on radio and television used to be reserved for top company executives and spokespersons. Until quite recently, the chance of being invited to make a media appearance was extremely small, even for the highest echelon. Today, almost anyone in responsible positions could be called on to interview.

Sweeping changes in broadcast and print media have created a multitude of channels and journals of specific interest; some of them global in nature. This information-starved media creates immense opportunities and significant challenges for individuals and organizations.

Disaster or opportunity?

Most people are very apprehensive and unprepared for media interviews and press conferences. Just one "off the cuff" comment or slip of the tongue and years of company image and personal career building can go right down the drain. However, to decline an appearance allows a great opportunity for getting your message out to disappear without a trace.

So how do you turn a potential disaster into an enormous advantage? By learning some simple rules and doing some on-camera training, you can learn the skills required to do credit to yourself, your organization and your industry. If a television appearance is imminent, arrange a visit to your local television studio to watch the news being broadcast. It may surprise you.

Handling that critical call from the press

The caller is usually a member of the production team, customarily a researcher. In some cases, the caller may be the journalist who wants to interview you. He or she is not a receptionist or a telephonist. You should be careful how you handle your conversation with them. Interview the caller and write down their answers. Their willingness to respond is an exceptional indicator of their integrity.

Do not rush to accept or decline the interview, just ask the following questions:

? What is the name of the broadcaster or publication?
? What is the name of the program or working title of the article?
? Who is the journalist, correspondent or interviewer?
? Why is this article being written or program being made? (They probably know something you don't know.)
? What is their angle? (Journalists always take an editorial approach or slant to stories. This is the story's angle.)
? Who else's views are being sought? Who else will be there?
? Will it be broadcast live or recorded; in a studio or on location?
? When do they want you?
? Are they showing any videos, models or graphics during the segment or program? And when can someone from you organization come to see them? (This is so that you are not taken by surprise.)
? If you have your materials, can they be included? (These would have to be prepared in advance and the integration of these would take some time to rehearse prior to the actual broadcast.)

Tell the caller that you will get back to them in 10 minutes

This gives you time to decide what to do. Your decision should not be based on fear or flattery. It should be a normal management decision. You should not refuse as a matter of course since the presenter could refer to your refusal on air and create the impression of guilt by refusal.

You need to ask yourself the following questions?

? Is appearing of benefit to me?
? Is it of benefit to my company?
? Am I the best person to appear?
? Do we want to be seen to associate with the other guest or guests?
? Do we have adequate preparation time?
? Does the journalist or program have a good reputation?
? Do we trust the journalist?
? What will happen if we do not accept the invitation?

Accept or decline?

It is of absolutely no use to accept the invitation if you will be faced with a couple of zealots, radicals or a protagonist who hates everything you do and everything you stand for. It is also impossible to compete with a highly edited tape feature, which negatively expounds the issue without you having your own taped segment to refute and set the record straight. You should remember that when appearing on the media, you are your organization, and even your industry, personified. Reputations and careers are at stake here!

If, after careful consideration, you do accept the interview, then extensive prior planning is required to turn this challenge into a golden opportunity. An opportunity which effectively allows you to communicate your message to an extremely large audience, sometimes numbering in the tens or hundreds of millions.

About the author

Rudi Goldman is the founder and Managing Director of Media in English B.V., a Dutch-based communications company and media consultancy which prepares executives for successful television, radio, print media appearances and business presentations. An award-winning communications expert, his 30 years of international media experience covers a broad spectrum, from Los Angeles to New York and from London to Hilversum. Having served as Director of Programming - UK, Benelux and Scandinavia for the Walt Disney Company in London, he understands the European perspective. Goldman has individually trained well over 200 top international business/government leaders.


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