PIO Interviews - Part III

Many times if the issue is very sensitive and you believe there may be some fallout after the interview, other personnel should be present during the interview.


On the day of the show, arrive at least a half hour early. This way you have time to relax and to review your material. When you enter the building, leave your pagers and cell phones in the car. It is very embarrassing to have them go off during your interview. Take a bottle of water in with you. Many times before a show, people get nervous and their mouth will get dry. Just sip your water.

If your stomach starts to get upset, take deep breaths and relax. Many times I will carry peppermint candy and keep one in my mouth up until the time the interview is about the start. It not only keeps your mouth moist, the peppermint will also calm your stomach.

While in the TV or radio station, remember to stay as quiet as possible since you may be taken into an area which maybe on the air.

Again, keep your answers short and concise. Answers should not be longer than 30 seconds.

When on a TV show, remember the camera may be on you at any time without you knowing it, so watch what you do. Maintain most of your eye contact with the host of the program.

Do not be tempted to look at the monitor. It can destroy your concentration.

OVERALL ADVICE FOR INTERVIEWS

 

  • Always be polite and helpful with the media.
  • Never lose your temper.
  • Be prepared, research you subject
  • Make sure your boss knows about the interview before and after.
  • Stick to your area of responsibility (don't talk about other agency responsibilities)
  • Always tell the truth - never lie.
  • If you don't know the answer, tell them you need more time.
  • If you don't understand the question, have them repeat it.
  • Look professional
  • Avoid professional jargon - keep it simple.
  • Never speculate or give personal opinions.
  • Always respect the media's deadline.
  • If you tell them you will get back to them, or call them back - make sure you do it.
  • Never be sarcastic
  • Do make off the cuff comments.
  • Keep your answers or comments short and concise.
  • Answer the who, what, when, where, why and how.
  • Squash any rumors that may be floating about.
  • Never say anything you don't want broadcast or printed.

Lastly I refuse to do some interviews, especially if our department was not the lead agency. I do not do interviews related to motor vehicle accidents, unless they want to cover the rescue part, such as a difficult extrication. MOST of the time I will advise the media to talk to the police or highway patrol PIO, auto accidents are their area of responsibility. (We wouldn't want the police to be doing interviews about a fire, so respect their area.)

I never do interviews related to drug labs, again this is law enforcement matter and our local media knows we will not do them.

Concerning matters of terrorism; the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the lead agency for public information. Since September 11th, we do not discuss what equipment we have in relation to responding to terrorism, plans and the like. Terrorist use the media to gather their information and if we feel it is a matter of sensitive nature, we tell the media we cannot discuss it, and when it is explained to the media that way they always understand.

Be careful about doing interviews about emergency medical responses. In some states medical confidentiality laws protect the patient and releasing ANY information without their consent is a violation and you could be held personally liable. My rule of thumb is: if the report was done on a medical run report, it is confidential. If the run was done on a fire report, the information may be released. (You should check your local laws to be sure.)

If you ever get the chance, take a video recorder and practice doing interviews in the station with your personnel, then play them back on the TV. Like doing drills or simulations, practice makes perfect. And if you are the PIO, this is how you build confidence and make yourself more professional.

If you have any questions or comments, please call me at 702-229-0145 or e-mail me at tszymanski@ci.las-vegas.nv.us.