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How to survive a negative media interview


It’s one thing confidently rattling off company statistics, industry trends and future predictions about your business to clients and customers, it’s another having a camera or microphone shoved in your face and being asked to recite the same knowledge to a journalist.

[Editor’s note: this article is the second in a two-part series by Luke Buesnel on avoiding and bouncing back from negative media. You can read part one here.]

If the media is a foreign entity to you, it’s more likely you’ll make mistakes such as fumbling basic details. You don’t have to be a media novice, however, for an interview to go pear-shaped. Exhibit A: Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen’s appearance on the Richo + Jones show on Sky TV in February 2015. After a slip-of-knowledge (a detail Bowen would have typically known), the interview turned hostile as broadcaster Alan Jones sensed a kill.

Obviously, you don’t want to be that guy. In this environment though, journalists hold all the keys and with the rise of “gotcha” media, you need to know how to safeguard your reputation if an interview goes sour.

In truth, it’s not that difficult.

Set the record straight

If you do stuff-up an interview, contact the journalist and ask (humbly) to correct the record. If it’s a slow news day or the journalist is accommodating, you might be allowed to. If not, use your initiative (and social media) to get your corrected message out. Don’t suggest the journalist was wrong, simply correct the mistake you made in a post on Facebook, Twitter or your nominated platforms. To provide substance, link in the original story (should you have it). Your post may not trend but your follows (potential clients/customers) are more likely to see this over the original story anyway. Including the original story shows honesty and potential clients/customers appreciate that.

If you did deliberately mislead the public or cheat the system you deserve to be called out by a journalist. But if it was a genuine mistake, correcting the record will help safeguard your reputation.

After Bowen’s tax gaffe, the media pressure built, so later he did what you’ve just been told: he fronted the media and acknowledged the mistake he made during his Sky TV interview.

Journalists can be fickle

Of course you need perspective here too: the journalists are often fickle. Remember when pop-legend Prince died? Every day we learnt about some development in the story via TV, radio print or online. It was bigger than Ben Hur and then, the media moved on. Ask yourself now, how did Prince actually die and which media reported it? It’s difficult to answer. This scattergun approach to reporting is a direct result of the 24 hour news cycle.

Reporting of this nature is true across all media platforms with most stories (no matter how negative) fading into oblivion. By nature of their job, journalists have to move on and chase new and more exciting stories. By acknowledging a mistake early on, you go some way towards disarming journalists and shortening the story’s lifespan.

It’s incumbent on you to know your facts and be well prepared before a media interview. If you do stuff up, ultimately it’s better for you to correct your mistakes and have them be forgotten. Remember this in the aftermath of a bad interview.

About the author:

Luke_BuesnelLuke Buesnel is an experienced journalist and political media advisor with an interest in small business issues and trends. Luke is the Founder and Director of Real Media Management. Twitter – @RMM_Luke