I’ve worked in marketing and communications for over a decade, and as a reporter before that. In my current job, it’s not unusual for journalists to call and interview me.
I’m pretty adept at spouting clever quotes about tourism and recreation, but yesterday’s call threw me for a loop.
“We’re doing a special feature about you that’ll run this Sunday,” the reporter informed me.
“Great!” I chirped. “Is this about the mountain bike race or the brewery tours?”
“Um, no. We’re doing a feature about you.”
Apparently the world of Tawna-the-marketing-geek has collided with the world of Tawna-the-romance-author and I wasn’t entirely ready for it. I’m hoping years of media experience kept me from making a total ass of myself, but I’ll find out for sure on Sunday if I'm quoted saying I like to run around naked with a glove on my head pretending to be a giant squid.
In the interest of helping you prepare for the moment you might be caught off-guard by a reporter, here are a few tips:
Speak slowly, enunciate clearly. This is crucial whether you’re interviewing for radio, TV or print. It’s natural to talk fast when you’re nervous, so make a conscious effort to speak like a kindergarten teacher on valium. Print journalists in particular will appreciate shorter sentences and longer pauses so they can jot your words correctly.
Keep the audience in mind. The reporter who called yesterday works for a mid-sized community newspaper with a readership comprised of a lot of people who may have never read a romance novel. With that in mind, I shared a few facts about the genre and followed up by emailing links to RWA stats and a blog post I wrote in defense of the romance genre. Had I been talking to someone from Romance Times, that wouldn't have been necessary.
Don’t assume anyone will know what the hell you’re talking about. Several times during yesterday’s interview, I caught myself speaking in vague terms about my bumpy road to publication or my blogging role at The Debutante Ball. These are things I’ve talked about so many times here I assume people are sick of them, but I realized quickly it was all new to the reporter. Even if you’re sure the journalist googled your name and gathered preliminary facts, don’t be afraid to reiterate. You’re providing a usable quote in your own words.
Be sensitive to deadlines. Publishing moves at a glacial pace, but news moves fast. Even though I knew the reporter was likely working on a tight deadline, I still cringed when he asked if I could connect him with someone at Sourcebooks within 24 hours for a quote about me. Everyone in my editor’s office is crazy-busy and I don’t like demanding they drop everything on account of me. Nevertheless, I know the publicity will benefit us all, so I bit the bullet and sent the email.
Don’t be a control freak. Plan in advance what major points you want to make and control the message that way. Beyond that, don’t demand a reporter let you read an article before it goes to press. You can ask, certainly, but many reporters will say no. Trust that you’ve done your job conveying your key messages and then trust the reporter to do her job sharing the story in her own words.
Have you ever been caught off-guard by a question from a reporter or anyone else? How did you deal with it? Please share!
I think I have to go lie down now. I just realized it’s possible I really did say the squid thing.