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Never lie to a news reporter

By Marjorie Comer

4 tips a spokesperson can use to prepare for an interview

News reporters don't want to hear sweet little lies; they want the truth.

In the midst of an interview, sometimes it’s tempting to exaggerate to make your company look good. Perhaps you’re unprepared to answer the question, so you respond enthusiastically with a “fish tale.” Or, perhaps you’re attempting to “fake it before you make it.”

No matter the reason, you should never exaggerate or tell even the smallest lie. You’ll lose credibility and put your company’s future in danger. We’ve had one such client whose CEO embellished during an interview, and it didn’t turn out well. Learn from that company’s mistake so you can prevent it from happening to your company.

Don’t let this be you

One time our public relations agency set up a lunch between a national business reporter and the hired CEO of a fast-growing corporation. For some reason, the CEO – who didn't found or own shares of the company – lied by inflating his company's number of full-time employees. Since the story was about how fast this company was growing, it was crucial information.

Weeks later, while the hired CEO was on vacation, the reporter called and spoke to the human resources officer to verify the company’s current employment numbers. Since the company was growing, the journalist reasonably expected a higher headcount since the first interview several weeks before. Not knowing about the lie, the HRO gave a truthful headcount. As a result, the CEO – and ultimately the company – lost all credibility with the reporter.

It's tempting for founding CEOs to exaggerate the success of their company. After all, it's their baby. Don't do this. It's not worth it. We didn't know the CEO was exaggerating, and when we found out, we explained to him why it was detrimental. We also warned the CEO that we can't – and won't – be part of it if it happens again.

Be prepared

Reporters research the company, the spokesperson and the story before and after an interview. If you lie, you’ll be caught; especially in the digital age where anyone is able to fact check anything in real time, and there’s a worldwide audience ready to rebuke your claims. It’s best to be as prepared as you can be to ensure the interview goes well.

  1. Undergo spokesperson training.
    Talking to the media is intimidating for many people. Participating in spokesperson training to become a MediaMaster helps you maintain a cool, calm and confident manner. Nonverbal communication is as important as verbal, and spokesperson training helps prepare company executives to be poised and self-assured.

  2. Utilize key messages.
    Key messages are easily digestible information about your company. They help position your company for the future, or they can be dynamic messages about your company’s product launches or during a crisis. These talking points make an interview less stressful, and by developing key messages, you gain some control over how the public perceives your company.

  3. Familiarize yourself with background information.
    Be knowledgeable about the topic of the interview. Have in front of you pertinent information like your company’s current number of employees, revenue (if you’re willing to share), price of a specific product and even information about your company’s history. Knowing the facts and figures of your company keeps the interview moving forward without a hitch. If the reporter asks a question you don’t know, say that you need to verify and you’ll follow up after the interview with accurate information.

  4. Fix mistakes.
    If you realize after an interview that you or your spokesperson made a mistake, notify the reporter of the error as soon as possible, especially before the article publishes online or in print.

Never lie to a reporter; it’s a mistake that can haunt you and your company for years. PR firms maintain a code of ethics, and we won’t stand for our clients being unethical or making unethical statements. We don’t want you to make a media faux pas. Watch Axia Public Relations’ spokesperson training webinar or contact us today to discuss how your company executives can better prepare for their interviews with the media.

Spokesperson Training Webinar

marjorie-comer-axia-pr.jpgMarjorie Comer is an award-winning PR professional. She graduated from Rockhurst University with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and loves to cheer for her hometown Kansas City Royals. Marjorie has worked for Axia Public Relations since October 2011. Follow her on Twitter @Marjorie_Comer. Learn more about Marjorie Comer.



Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: media relations, public relations, media

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