Facing the Media… friend or foe?

By Malcolm Russell

What do you do when the media comes knocking at your door? How do you handle their questions? Is ‘No comment’ the right approach? Do you have rights in the media? Do you need protection and, if so, how do you go about it?


I’ve spent my life on both sides of the media – as reader, listener or viewer, and a Radio, Television and Press journalist. Our company, the Broadcast Development Group, trains presenters, commentators, journalists and broadcasters in their skills and we work with the top stations and publications in the country and throughout Africa.


But recently, media proliferation, poorly trained journalists and a lowering of standards has led us to a new field… helping the often blameless ‘victims’ of an increasingly confrontational media. And it’s made even worse by the loose canon that is Social Media. It’s become part of our training portfolio – not simply for the protection of reputations and the Brand but also to help in its positive projection.


So 5 Top Tips when the media comes calling…


One: Know your rights. You don’t have to drop everything and you don’t owe them knee-jerk answers. Find out who they are, check their credentials and pick both the time and place if they want to interview you. Be friendly and expect the best – because as you’ll see, it could well benefit you and your company.


Two: Telephone interviews are the norm for radio and are usually prefixed by a call from the show’s producer. Before you agree to participate,  ask if the show is live or being recorded, who else they are talking to and try to determine if they are genuinely looking for a benign interview or ‘setting you up’


Three: There is no such thing as ‘off the record’  In fact we recommend you ‘put it on the record’. Your cell phone is a life-saver. Record the interview from top to bottom – especially if they are recording with a view to writing an article or editing an interview for later broadcast. It is perfectly legal to do so – after all – you aren’t intending to broadcast it!


Four: If you don’t know an answer just say so. If it is in your domain or field of expertise and you don’t know, you can offer to find out and call back to give them an answer. Don’t respond to ‘you should know the answer’. They have no right to that assumption! Don’t be bullied.


Five: Learn how to prepare for an interview. It may sound like a simple conversation but it can be a minefield for the unwary. Every journalist has an agenda. You have the right to one too – so prepare your own.


Is there any good news?




By far the majority of interviews are straightforward, non-threatening and designed simply to tell a story to the audience that the publication or station serves. For the most part you can benefit from the exposure if you know how.


Finally – what do you do if you have been ambushed, misled, misquoted, quoted out of context, not been allowed to answer a question fully or any of the other mischiefs the media can get up to?


If you can secure a recording of the interview or publication, let us know. We’ll be happy to examine the issue pro bono and suggest a course of action. Reach the Broadcast Development Group at admin@bdg.co.za.





Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *