Don't let silence intimidate you.
Don’t let silence intimidate you.

Polished oratory is great, but what you say isn’t as important as how you say it. Be caring, personable and human. Smile. Don’t talk in generalities or simply say that yours is a good product or service. Say why. Tell brief, interesting personal stories. Think of pictures that communicate your story. The media must reduce complex issues into simple stories. Help them do their job. Remember, a typical TV sound bite is only nine seconds. That’s time for one complete thought.

Determine your key message.

Always make important points first. Anticipate questions and practice your answers. Bridge if necessary to get out your key points.

Be brief and concise.

Never say, “No comment.”
Feel free to say, “I don’t know” or “Let me get back to you.”
Avoid industry jargon or acronyms.

Summarize your position.

Rephrase questions positively.
Think out your answer before responding.
Avoid commenting about a competitor.

Look at the interviewer, not the camera.

Wear conservative, solid-color clothes.
Check your appearance in a mirror or monitor.
Don’t place a desk between you and the interviewer.

Be open, relaxed and honest.

Deal in facts, not hypotheticals.
Insist reporters “source” any allegations.
Understand the ground rules before starting the interview.

Don’t let silence intimidate you.

Say what you have to say, then stop.
If you blow an answer, stop and restate it.
Consider everything you say as on the record.

Know reporters’ deadlines.

Call back, if needed, to clarify points.
Protect a reporter’s exclusivity rights to a story.
Practice the “sundown rule.” Call back by day’s end.