Tips for Working with the Media
Working with the media is not rocket science. However, it can be intimidating if you've never done it before, or if you are dealing with sensitive issues. The following tips are designed to help NVLSP clients and their families when talking to the media.
How to Prepare for a Media Interview
- Talk to the NVLSP media relations staff. If you are an NVLSP client who has consented to talk with the media, it may be helpful to talk with our media relations staff ahead of time. Our staff can provide you with background information about the media request, will talk with the reporter before the interview, and is a great sounding board for your questions. If there are things you are not comfortable discussing with the media, please let us know.
- Plan what you will wear for the interview. You may be photographed by the media. A newspaper may send a photographer to take pictures, a television station definitely will, and even radio reporters are now often taking digital photos for a website story. A picture says a thousand words, so the image you present on camera is important. Generally, choosing clothing with solid colors is a safe bet. Stripes and complicated patterns may not be flattering on camera. A shirt or jacket with a collar usually looks better than a t-shirt and helps you project credibility and look pulled together. Some people also find it gives them more confidence. Avoid large jewelry. Comb or brush your hair. If you wear makeup, keep it simple and don’t do anything flashy.
- Write down key dates or outline your story ahead of time. Sometimes doing this with a note card before your interview is very helpful. Write down the year you joined the military and the key things that happened to you, in the order in which things have happened to you. This is especially important if you have memory gaps or are relying on a family member to help share your story.
- Invite a family member or friend to sit in on the interview. Sometimes having a family member nearby can be calming for someone who is nervous about talking with a reporter. Sometimes this additional person can be an unnecessary distraction. Make sure anyone you invite to sit in on the interview is aware of the issues you are planning to discuss with the reporter, and what the story angle is. Only invite people who are supportive and that you think will help the interview go well.
- Relax as best you can! Reporters are real people who want to write an accurate story and they need your help to do that. They don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. If it helps you, rehearse the interview in your mind. Imagine the questions you might be asked, and how you might respond. Many reporters are willing to provide basic interview questions ahead of time or give you a sense of what they will ask to help you prepare.
- Get the jitters out by rehearsing if you need to. If you are one of those unlucky people who still feels nervous about talking with a reporter, then stage your own rehearsal. For some people, this helps them conquer their nerves and feel more confident. Have a friend sit across from you and ask the types of questions you think you will be asked. Wear what you intend to wear for the interview. Ask your friend to watch your body language and how you respond to the questions. If you want to practice alone, try this in front of a mirror at home. For many people, this is enough to get the butterflies out of their stomachs about doing a media interview.
- Make sure the boundaries are clear. In some families, the veteran wants to speak with the press, but they do not want for reporters to talk with their children, to photograph their home in a way that it can be identified, or to speak with their elderly mother. At the same time, the details about your family life, how you live your life today, and how your condition has impacted your family – can convey a better-rounded picture of who you are and tell a fuller story. Talk with the NVLSP media relations staff about any concerns you may have.
- Be polite. If you have agreed to speak with a reporter then try to meet their need to get accurate information in a timely fashion. Reporters are under pressure to file stories on deadline. Please call them back promptly.
- Be calm and collected. If you feel rushed, emotional, need time to collect your thoughts, or want to refresh your memory on key details, ask the reporter if you can call him/her back in a half an hour. Most reporters will be more than happy to allow you a little time.
- Don’t be afraid of questions you can’t answer. If the reporter is asking for information you don’t know, say that you will check on the information and get back to them promptly about the matter. Avoid speculating about things you don’t really know the answers to.
- Never lie. A good reporter will always do their homework and try to verify information. Providing inaccurate information or passing along assumptions will undermine your credibility and story.
Types of Interviews
- Print: For newspaper/magazine/internet use, this interview format is often longer. It goes into more depth and will rely heavily on facts and figures. It is not uncommon for a reporter to follow a storyline over a long period of time and want to come back and speak with you again.
- Radio: Radio interviews are often done in a studio “live” (what you are saying is heard within seconds by the broadcast audience). Sometimes interviews are recorded in the studio or at your home, and the story will air at a later date.
- Television Stand-Up: This is often the type of interview you see on the evening news as part of a “package” or story. It’s usually done on location—for example, a home, a park, or a place you suggest - and is taped for use at a later date. These interviews will be edited and pieced together as part of the final package to air.
- Television In-Studio: These interviews are usually done one-on-one with a host in a more relaxed conversational format. They can be done either taped or live.
- Television Remote: This type of interview is done on location but is live, generally during a news broadcast. They tend to be very short.
- News Conference: A news conference is a question and answer session with a group of reporters. It is a great opportunity to quickly and widely transmit information and answer any questions. It’s important that a news conference be carefully coordinated, held at a time convenient for the media, and well-organized.