PIO Interviews - Part II

Most of the time the department’s Public Information Officer should do the interviews, they are the department spokesperson.


KEEP YOUR HANDS CLASPED BEHIND OR IN FRONT OF YOU - This way your arms do not sway and you won't have a tendency to play with items in your pockets.

DO NOT WEAR SUNGLASSES - Even if it is sunny outside, take the glasses off during the interview.

DO NOT EAT FOOD, SMOKE OR CHEW GUM - It does not look professional and people might hear something different than what you said if you have food in your mouth. (Whenever I am going to be interviewed I only drink water, never soft drinks or eat anything. When being interviewed people, including the pros, get nervous and soft drinks and food can create gas which can lead to problems.)

AVOID ANSWERS OF JUST YES OR NO - An interview is a conversation. Explain your answers.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO SAY " I DON'T KNOW" - If you don't have the answer to a question, say so. Sometimes you will get questions that take some research. It is better to say, "I don't know" than to speculate.

KEEP TO THE POINT - Don't be mislead during you interview, give correct and concise answers.

WEAR DARK CLOTHING - It makes for a better image on TV. Lighter clothes make the background darker which gives a sinister image. I always carry a dark jacket I can throw on for a few minutes for the interview, even during the summer.

LOOK AT THE REPORTER DURING THE INTERVIEW, NOT THE CAMERA. It is a conversation between you and the reporter. Pretend the camera is not there unless you are directed to do so. Sometimes a cameraperson will come on scene without a reporter to get a quick sound byte. Again, look away from the camera; pretend you are looking at a reporter next to the camera.

WATCH FACIAL EXPRESSIONS - Make sure you are not smiling when talking about something serious, especially fatalities.

NEVER USE THE TERM "NO COMMENT" - It is better to say that you cannot discuss it at this time or you don't have the answer and you will get back to them when you do.

NEVER ENTERAIN A HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION or speculate about an issue.

IF NOT ON FIRE DEPARTMENT PROPERTY make sure you have permission to do the interview. Private property is out without the permission of the property owner. Most of my out of station interviews are done in the street or on a public sidewalk. If they want to do an interview in a commercial store such as in the heating department to explain heater safety, check with the store's manager to ensure they are aware of the interview before agreeing to do it.

WORDS IN THE BOX

When doing an interview, journalist are "not suppose" to use words that did not come out of your mouth. When giving an interview pretend there is a box on the ground in front of you. Every word that comes out of your mouth falls into the box. The journalist giving the interview can use any word that is in the box. After the interview is over, the journalist takes the box, closes it and shakes it up. How and what words come out of the box can be used. May not be in the order you said them, but if they are in the box, they can be used.

Arson is a great word. Journalists like to use it; sometimes fire service personnel do not. If YOU don't put the word in the box, they cannot (are not suppose) to use it. In our department, we don't use the word arson until we are absolutely sure the incident was the result of arson. Sometimes they will ask, "Is there a chance the fire is the result of arson?" Many times people will reply, "We are not sure if it is arson, the fire is still under investigation." THERE you put the word in the box and it will probably come out in the news as: "Investigators look into the possibility of arson." It would have been more correct to reply, "We are not sure what caused the fire, it remains under investigation." That way the word arson is not in the box and they can't use it.

MICROPHONES

For the most part, the media for interview work uses two types of microphones: wireless lapel microphones and shotgun microphones. You should be very careful of both.