General Interview Guidelines
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  • Set the level of attribution before an interview.
  • Everything you say is "on the record," unless you make another arrangement with a reporter.
  • Don't say anything you don't want to see in print.
  • You can give comments on background or on a "not-for-attribution" basis in special circumstances. This means the reporter can use the information but not attribute it to you.
  • Use "off the record" sparingly. It appears as if you are hiding something, and a good reporter can usually find out what it is.
Answering Questions

Don’t Feel Pressured to Answer Immediately. If you don't have an immediate answer to a question, say "I will get back to you with an answer." Hold off on a response if your additional research can provide a more complete answer. By being 100 percent accurate, you will enhance your reputation as a dependable source.

Be Helpful

Be Helpful Even if You May Not Benefit. Don't treat media requests as frivolous. The goal is to build long-term relationships with news organizations. Cooperation now means that you will probably be used as an industry spokesperson again.


Help reporters meet deadlines. Don't make reporters wait on deadline because you neglect to return calls. If you commit yourself to provide information, follow through quickly. If you are unable to obtain the data, get back to the reporter rapidly to inform him or her.

Don't Hide

Try Not to Avoid Questions. Failing to answer a question may give an impression that you are hiding something. If a question is sensitive, give a brief answer and move along. Be alert to major issues affecting your company and find out the standard company response before talking to media. Learn to "bridge over" to a positive statement after responding.


Be accurate. If you discover information relayed to a reporter is outdated, call back the reporter with correct facts. He or she will appreciate your concern for accuracy.


Be Patient. Don't let it appear as if your time is too valuable to waste on media. If you are busy when a reporter phones, offer to return the call that same day at a more convenient time. Then do it.


Don't Hold Grudges. If a reporter has written a negative story about your company, then calls on another story, don't hold back. Your objective is to achieve a professional relationship with the media. Don't let a reporter's previous actions stop you from building the relationship.

Industry Spokesperson

Comment on general industry trends. Don't insist on a guarantee that your company will be included in a story. Journalists appreciate the assistance of corporate executives with knowledge of a subject. Most likely, your company will receive recognition in an article. Even if it doesn't, you and your company benefit when you are quoted as a knowledgeable industry leader.

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