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- 6. Guard against overstatement. Overstating a situation will get you on the fast track to total loss of credibility. As emotional at the situation may be, seek a rounded perspective based on fact. Within their likely limited frame of reference, this is how your audience will perceive the issue, and you want to create empathy with your audience - not alienate them. By screening your information thusly, you will help preserve your objectivity and make it that much more difficult for your adversary to position you as a Chicken Little claiming that "the sky is falling." When in doubt, it's usually best to err on the side of understatement.
- 7. Use illustrative statements that can put otherwise abstract ideas into visual context.
These types of statements pull a lot of weight in an interview and are more likely to be quoted because they help the reporter communicate more content while using less words and more importantly, bring imagery to the reader. Since reporters are always being edited and struggle with ways to make their story come alive on a tight word budget, you'll be making their job a little easier. Most reporters will appreciate that. Let's say you want to make a statement about the gross waste associated with your city throwing money at a consulting firm to figure out a relatively simple community problem. Instead of saying: "The city spent seven-thousand dollars to decide if a parking meter is worth installing at the city building." You could safely assume your reader will understand the context via the content of the article then simply say, "It's like buying an elephant to pull an apple cart." This provides punctuation to the article and adds a nice visual dimension for the reporter's readership.
- 8. Avoid casual speculation. Reporters may press you for speculation which can build tension, suspicion and conflict. While, in my opinion, it is completely reasonable to speculate, I think such conjecture should be disclosed and based on genuine plausibility. Speculation can be stretched into a sensationalistic technique which could backfire and get you into a sticky situation with not only your adversary but the public. Unless you are certain of why your adversary is not taking a more pro-active stance to mitigate a damaging situation, be careful of verbalizing your suspicion. If you decide to speculate, make absolutely certain you qualify your comments by saying so.
- 9. Assure timely information.
In response to any new development, remember time will probably be of the essence. If you cannot speak to the press, prepare a statement which you can fax covering
the basics: Who has done what? Why is it an issue? How many people are affected? Is anything being done to correct the problem? What might be done?
- 10. Employ a strategy to get media attention. As you work to gain media attention and involve a concerned public, your opponent may counter your efforts by accusing you of having some kind of agenda. Well, heck yes. Unfortunately, today, this is becoming the only way a small voice can be heard. And a person's know-how and willingness to create a media event in order to communicate a point can help them gain recognition from the opposition and others in a position to resolve an issue. I don't blame or judge anyone the lesser for generating this type of interest. It is sometimes an essential part of the negotiation process. I know this first hand, because I have designed such a media component and felt what it is like to be a performer constantly attending rod after rod of suspended, spinning plates.
We, as individuals living in a world ruled by financial bottom lines, must learn to set aside our assumptions of how media, money and politics are related and adapt ourselves in order to even attempt to compete on the same field, for example, as gargantuan corporate adversaries. I lament that our society is so easily entertained by such a specter, justifying the investment in sensationalism by media empires and largely eliminating any real chance of dialog apart from sound bytes. But, let us be grateful that in America there at least exists a possibility of being heard -- even though you may have to create your own forum.
If you are the only one affected by an unjust situation and worry you won't be able to generate sufficient media attention, don't fret. You may be able to win local and possibly even national attention through the use of two helpful techniques. One of these techniques is to demonstrate how your situation and harm may come to likewise involve others, due to current policy or trend, if a clamorous public uproar (and hopefully subsequent policy change) isn't heard soon. The second way is to compare and leverage your situation against a relevant and current hot topic or trend. This second technique helps to correlate current public interest and economically expand subject selection for a media outlet. Building up media attention is a slow process usually begun at a local level. Broader exposure through multiple media channels, such as radio, television and print, gains momentum over time through diligent updates to your press connections.
Beyond managing the interview, here are some additional important and central techniques for success in working with media:
- 1. Dress conservatively and neatly, demonstrating respect for your interviewer and your audience.
- 2. Take a breath and wait at least three seconds before responding. This gives you time to digest the question and potential implications of your answer, and allows you to better articulate your point. A few seconds will seem like forever in your head - not so much on camera. You'll appear thoughtful, so don't be afraid to pause.
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Copyright © 2006, Lisa Bracken
Copyright © 2006, The Negotiator Magazine