To help protect you and your clients from being drawn into a sensational story, or revealing information that you don’t want made public, here are some reporter tricks, along with suggested responses.
Putting words in your mouth
Remember, confirming a statement made by a reporter with a “yes” could open the door for a sensational comment, attributed to you. In one interview, I heard a reporter ask a source if he was “devastated.” The source gave a long, more moderate answer, without correcting the reporter’s comment. The next day he was quoted as saying he was “devastated.” Correct first, then elaborate.
Softening you up for the kill
Some of the most effective reporters are the ones who kill you with kindness. You are prepared for aggressive reporters, but when the nice ones ask a tricky question, you are often caught off guard and may reveal something you did not intend to. Remember, reporters have a job to do, and they are not your friends. Stay on your guard.
Reporters deliberately will not ask an immediate follow-up question, leaving a silence with the hope that you will fill the time with more information. The solution: Be comfortable with the silence, and stick to your messaging.