Media Relations Damage Control: How to Prevent Your Interview From Becoming a Mess

Forget the old saying about things being "beyond control." As PR professionals, you know this is a rule not to heed seriously given what you go through every day. Following are some measured steps to take with reporters to prevent misquotes, inaccuracies or a plain old hatchet job.

Before the interview:
    If the reporter has a preconceived notion about a story, and it is inaccurate, set the record straight immediately before proceeding with the interview. You can do so by providing background information, reports, etc., to prove your case. If the reporter persists in writing about something you feel is inaccurate, you might want to decline being interviewed, but explain why.
    Prepare for the interview. Choose three or four main points you want to make and rehearse them until you can say them smoothly.
    Gather accurate background information the reporter might find helpful such as trade association newsletters, past news clippings about your business, your media kit or other materials the reporter can take back to the office.

During the interview:
    Talk slowly and in short sentences so reporters can get accurate quotes. Ask reporters if they would like you to repeat any information. Many reporters will appreciate that you offered.
    Ask the reporter to read back your quotes either during the interview or before the story is printed. More disagreements arise over inaccurate quotes that any other part of the story. Reading back quotes helps avoid inaccuracies if the reporter has missed a word or two that changes the meaning of the quote. Understand, however, that if you don't like the sound of what you actually said, or you regret having said it, you don't have a right to change it. Avoid this problem by "practicing" what you will say and how you will say it, before the reporter arrives.
    Don't talk "off the record." If you don't want to see it, don't say it.
    Ask the reporter to "fact check" the story with you before it is printed. A reporter "fact checks" a story by calling all the sources and confirming the facts such as the number of employees, the year the company was founded, correct titles and spelling of names, etc.--Provide a media kit. This is a folder of information about your business that can include background information on the company, biographies of the owners and managers, articles by or about you, press releases, marketing or publicity material, and photos.

After the interview:
    Correct all errors by calling the media outlet and asking for a correction.
For grievous errors, or if you feel the media outlet treated you unfairly, consider writing a letter to the editor or an opinion column to set the record straight in your own words. Editors will seldom refuse to print these.

These tips originally appeared on

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