By Susan Tomai
Too many unflattering sound bites are the result of an interviewee repeating the questioner’s words. This is understandable - repeating is what we do in everyday conversation. We grow up being taught that repeating another’s words shows that we're listening - and care enough to show it. But a media interview is not everyday conversation.
In an interview, the objective is to use your own words, not the reporter’s, to deliver key messages. Let’s say you’re trying to bring attention to an effort to help parents learn about social media. If the reporter says something like “Social media is bad for kids, isn’t it?”, you don’t want to say “No, social media isn’t bad for kids.” The reason for this is that even though you’re shooting down an assertion that you don’t like, you’re still saying the words, and those words can become the chosen sound bite.
The better course is to simply go to one of your messages. You might say “With proper supervision by parents, social media can be a great way for kids to communicate.” Remember, you can’t control what the reporter says, but you can and must control what you choose to say. It takes discipline not to repeat questions, or deny accusations, but it’s a necessary discipline for any spokesperson.