The first rule of preparing for an interview with a reporter. No candidate, and no staff person in a campaign should ever talk to a newspaper reporter without first doing their homework.
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In this day and age, when Google searches are easy and quickly done, there is no excuse for not knowing the reporter you are talking to and the kind of questions you are likely to get. Not just their background, or schools they attended…read the stories they have written in the past so that you are familiar with their writing style, investigative methods and their area of expertise.
Closely examine how they have handled a contentious interview. Google the names of candidates they interviewed to see if there were complaints about the professionalism of the reporter. Were there complaints about the accuracy of quotes? Did the reporter honor rules like ‘off the record,’ or ‘on background?’
Is the reporter the kind that does thorough investigative journalism or one who is usually willing to take a quote and file their story? When a campaign they are covering issues a press release, are they the kind of reporter who offers the opposing camp a chance to respond?
Look for people they frequently quote in their stories, otherwise known as sources. Preparing for an interview with a reporter is also knowing who they rely on to understand the subject they are writing about, and who they turn to reinforce their own point of view.
If you have time, talk to other candidates the reporter has interviewed and get their take on the professionalism of the journalist and the accuracy of their reporting.
Know the purpose of the interview and how much time the reporter needs. For example, if the reporter is asking for an hour long sit down interview, then you can expect that you’ll be asked a wide array of questions and that any answer you give may be challenged in follow-up questions. If the time requested is short and the topic specific, then make sure you have your facts and homework together about the topic in question.
Be mindful that they have deadlines, and lives outside of their profession. You are more likely to be given the chance to respond to an allegation if you take the reporter’s deadline seriously.
Avoid the ‘no comment’ response. To the reader, a candidate who says no comment in response to an allegation is guilty as charged. Never ever lie to a reporter. If you do, it will destroy your credibility and it will come back to haunt you.
Have some questions about preparing for an interview with a reporter? Hit the comment button. If you send me a question I will answer. And if I can help you in any way with an upcoming interview, call me at 845-458-1210.
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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