Let’s state right from the start: if you’re giving an interview, it is a bad thing to annoy a journalist. You only have to look at the tabloids to see that anyone who utters the slightest bit of criticism of the newspapers in any way gets a hard time.
Basically, if you annoy them, you will come off worse because they’ll give you a harder time in the interview, with more challenging questions, and they will be more inclined to be critical in any article they write.
One member of our training team gives the example of two (nameless) senior politicians who he interviewed countless times.
The first never acknowledged that he knew who the reporter was, or that they’d met before. Consequently the reporter, who is after all human, was less well disposed towards him.
The second politician greeted him by name the very first time they met – having seen him on the TV news – and thereafter always gave an effusive welcome, asking after his family, and generally making it much more difficult for the reporter to give him a hard time.
Here are the top 9 ways to annoy a journalist
1. Suggest questions for them – or ask for a list of questions before an interview
2. Ask to see a story before publication
3. Ask them to send you a copy of the publication (you should be buying it yourself)
4. Use a hands-free phone for a telephone interview (the sound quality is worse)
5. Record your interview with them
6. Criticise the media (after all, they ARE the media)
7. Give short factual answers to questions, with no more detail
8. Mention ‘key messages’
9. Tell them you’ve been media trained!
These may seem quite reasonable to you, but put yourself in the shoes of the reporter, who may be against a tight deadline, being yelled at by their producer or news editor to extract specific information out of you, and doesn’t want to have to work too hard to do this.
In general, they want an interview where you give interesting, honest – and spontaneous – answers to the questions that they regard as the ones that the general public would want answered. And they want the editorial independence to interpret your answers in the way they see fit.