Any organization may have the media request an interview to discuss an uncomfortable or difficult issue. The issue may be based on some form of alleged illegal activity, unethical behaviour or controversial nature. The request may come from the traditional media, such as television, or from contemporary media based internet means, such as 'Skype' calls, emails or websites, etc.
Before the interview begins, the organization's principal officer, or other person being interviewed, e.g. marketing manager, needs to be fully briefed and appreciative of the issue. If time is needed to gain this information, it is best to request a reasonable period, often reasonably short though, to gain it. You do not want the media only reporting their view, or that which they have, without your input.
If the organization decides to act on the request itself, there are a number of approaches which should benefit the organization:
• Be available for an interview in person or over the phone
• Be positive and in control during the interview
• Appearance is important e.g. appropriate demeanour, dress, stance
• Control the backdrop for television or newspaper photo to get the positive visual message out that you want
• Answer all questions, but turn the answer to what you want to emphasize
• Having 3-4 key points to direct to the media is a good approach
• State the obvious, such as:
• no one was hurt / unfortunately some people were injured
• damage to the property was significant / minimal
• the most important thing is that no-one was hurt, only property damage occurred and that this will be repaired as soon as possible or
• unfortunately some people were hurt and the school is currently doing everything possible for those people e.g. ambulance was called immediately, there will be ongoing medical assistance, a counsellor is involved for those directly affected, other counsellors are coming from sister schools, etc.
• the principal office bearer is sorry that this unfortunate event occurred, all procedures have been followed and that everything possible will be done
• to ensure that this will not happen again.
• if updating procedures is necessary, then this will be done immediately.
For potential criminal matters refer the media to a specific contact at the system or senior management level (who you have forewarned and briefed in detail), or other legal people you have access to, who would be best placed to deal with that situation.
• Be available to keep the media updated as the situation changes or developments are made.
• Keep well advised, especially from the educational systemic level.
• For criminal matters follow the educational system's / legal advice throughout the whole process.
Staff Preparation for Interviews
• Personnel who will appear on television, radio or within print should practise the skills needed to be successful. It can be quite daunting when someone with a camera or microphone requests you to speak.
• You need to appear to be coherent, informed and in control. It is even more confronting when there are a number of cameras, microphones and people standing before you, particularly if it is due to a serious nature.
• Practise, practise, practise your interview techniques.
• Use video cameras and audio recording devices to record your responses and then learn from your experiences.
• Have selected staff members act as journalists and have them interview you.
• Allow for the difficult questions because this is part of the process.
• Remember, to keep coming back to your 3-4 key positive points.
• Be as positive as possible.
Being prepared is a necessary pre-requiste for anyone being interviewed by the traditional or contemporary media. Being skilled and practised to 'perform' to their best is very important. Being a true, well-informed representative of the organization is necessary for a successful outcome.