What are the ground rules for recording a media interview?
So, you’re a little nervous about that media interview coming up.
Maybe it’s for print or the web, or maybe it’s for video. You expect it to be hostile. You’re not sure what all the questions will be, but one thing that won’t surprise you is the possibility that your side of the story won’t get a fair hearing.
In making preparations, you’ve thought about recording the interview yourself. Your biggest concern is that something you say will be taken out of context. The question is, can you or should you record the interview yourself?
The quick answer is, yes, you can record the interview, but there are some usually unsaid ground rules for doing so. Here are the major ones.
1. Tell the journalist you are going to record the interview.
You don’t need to give advance notice of this, but before the interview starts let the reporter know of your plans.
2. Don’t record every interview.
If you expect a routine interview, there is no need to create an atmosphere of distrust by introducing this additional element. However, if going in, you know this can be a particularly confrontational interview, recording the interview yourself may be a consideration.
3. Check out your local laws.
States have specific laws on how you can record others, and how you must notify them prior to recording them. Do your homework.
4. Think about how you may use the recording afterward.
You don’t need to disclose this before the interview. But you should know whether you are prepared to post raw or edited video to sites that you control, such as your own Web site, blog, or social media channels, among other options.
5. It can be a bad idea to post the raw or edited video on your controlled sites before the story actually runs.
The primary purpose of recording an interview is to ensure you have what you need if you have to clarify some aspect of the interview or you want to set the record straight later. But it’s common courtesy to give the journalist a chance to get the story right before posting your own content from the interview.
Thanks to today’s technologies and the array of controlled media channels, there is much an individual or organization can do to clarify something that may be said in a media interview that could be taken out of context. But the one thing to avoid is to make an already hostile or confrontational situation worse.
Once an interview is complete, and you’ve had the chance to review your recording, it’s best to take the time to think through how you may respond once the story runs. And even then, take even more time to methodically consider how you may respond.
Perhaps the best strategy here can be drawn from history.
It’s practically legend that Abraham Lincoln was said to have the habit of writing angry letters to people he felt like confronting. The story goes that he’d write a “hot letter” and then put it away until he calmed down, never actually sending the letter.
The lesson here is not to use your recording of the interview in the heat of the moment when emotions may be running high. Step back. Give everything time to come into perspective, and then determine if something in the reporter’s final story truly demands to be addressed.
Have you ever recorded a media interview?
Tim O’Brien is owner of Pittsburgh-based O’Brien Communications, a corporate communications consultancy. He has over 30 years’ experience in communications and started his career as a journalist.
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