Eight Rules for Speaking to the Press

Richard Boucher

  1. 70% Looks, 20% Sound, 10% Content
    –Comb your hair
    –Talk Slowly
    –Watch yourself with the sound off
    –Don’t mumble; speak on a good connection
    –Free your hands, lift your chin, look at the camera, lean forward

  2. Think with your mouth shut
    –Stop saying… Uh, well, So, OK
    –Pause and think
    –Silence (in small doses) makes you look thoughtful
    –Finish sentences with your mouth closed

  3. Know who you are (The Simba Rule)
    –Only say what you know you know
    –Do your homework, study, rehearse
    –Know your main points and make sure you make them
    –Practice a sound-bite—9 seconds (about a Tweet)
    –If an answer is more than 40 seconds, it better be good
    –Anticipate questions, you can probably figure out 70%

  4. They will write the story
    –Tell a story, not just facts; use examples: What happened, Why, How, What does it mean?
    –Do you want to be in the story or not?
    –Can you help the reporter get it right? Even if you don’t have a point of view, don’t end up fixing errors tomorrow
    –Treat their questions with respect, they get the last word

  5. Make the rules clear
    –On camera, on-the-record, background, off-the-record
    –Live? Taped? In its entirety? Right to approve quotes?
    –You state the rules: “We’re on background here, right?”
    –The more up front you are, the more credible you are

  6. Talk to your mother
    –Small words, big thoughts
    –If your mom understands, others will too
    –If you can’t convince her, you won’t convince anyone
    –She’ll be excited to see you on TV

  7. Always tell the truth
    –Everything can be searched and checked—forever
    –You don’t have to tell all the truth, but everything you say must be true and not designed to mislead
    –Admit mistakes; make the story about how you are fixing the problem, not about the problem

  8. Talk to the crisis
    –First reports are always wrong! Don’t forget this! Ever!
    –Keep cool, your first job is to build confidence
    –Use action verbs: “We’re investigating.” “We’re contacting.” “We’re examining.” “We’re preparing.” “We’re searching.” NOT: “We’re waiting for more information.”