Press Jiu Jitsu
Here are some common situations and questions you may encounter when speaking with the press. Please note that this is a guide, not an instruction manual. As such, it is entirely possible you don't agree with everything here. Please do not make it into an argument, instead please provide/list alternatives. We're here to collaborate, not te "be right".
It's important to think from the perspective of the journalist *first*, what you are trying to say *second*. In most cases, this means the journalist's motivations include:
- Looking for good quotes and clear opinions, so they don't have to sort out your mess. That's why they tend to ask very constrained questions or questions that feel like a "challenge".
- Looking for an interesting story. This can be, but isn't limited too: things that "resonate" on a personal level, things that challenge the status quo, etc. However much you are in agreement with something, that's usually just not interesting as news.
Never take it personal. Never become unfriendly, even if the journalist is being a total ass. Since they hold the pen, you will never win.
A journalist isn't there to trick you, but it can definitely feel like it for the above reasons. That's why you should practice mental-verbal jiu jitsu: answer in such a way that you both avoid potential traps and still both get what you want. The journalist has to go home with an interesting interview with good quotes and you're going to help them with that.
Footwork (stand your ground)
General tips to improve your ground position:
- Welcome journalists as you would any guest. Ask them what they would like to do (interview? pictures?) if it's unclear. Help them get organized.
- Be personal. Know their name and - if possible - ask them questions about their work (what magazines do they write for? do they cover only politics or other stuff as well?) or other trivia.
- Never start talking about your private life. Hangovers, girlfriends or boyfriends, porn viewing habits (yes, this happened), etc. While this is an acceptable way to socialize in general, it's a fundamentally bad idea with a journalist. I repeat, do not talk about your private life.
- Take your time to answer, especially with print journalists, there is no . For audio-visual work it sometimes needs to be quite a bit faster, so it's best if you have some experience with print interviews first.
- Try to really relax. If you're hypernervous, avoid press. Unless you are an athlete, it's going to look bad.
- Try to be humorous, but not too funny. Avoid geeky/nerdy jokes, they will make you look bad unless it's for a geeky/nerdy publication.