US Army Corps of Engineers
Rock Island District

Media Training Home

Who Needs Media Training

The Training

  • Working with the Media
  • 6 Media Principles
  • 10 Tips to Remember
  • Correcting Errors
  • Media Query Policy
  • Handling a Call
  • Questions You Ask
  • Interview Ground Rules
  • Using Quotes and Bites
  • Avoiding a Disaster
  • Handling Tough Questions
  • Verbal Communication
  • It's Your Attitude
  • Body Language
  • Dress and Appearance
  • Media Opportunities
  • Put the Castle Forward
  • Parting Tips

Questions?

You can quote me on that

A reporter is always looking for a good story, factual information and quality or interesting quotes to go with it. In radio and television they are referred to as “sound bites.”  Most of the time, your long interview will be reduced to one or two 5- to 7-second sound bites or several 1- to 2-sentence quotes in a newspaper or magazine story.
 
With this in mind, you should be very concise in what you say. The odds are, if you say five things, only two of them will get in print or on the air. Will they be what you wanted to say? If you talk for two hours and still only get 20 seconds, why waste your breath and increase your chances of saying something you might regret.
 
It is important to speak in short, but complete sentences. However, it is just as important that your short and complete sentences are NOT just "Yes" and "No" answers. When interviewing on camera, if you want your interview to be used you have only about 10-20 seconds per question to make your point; basically, a short sentence. If interviewing for print, one to two sentences per question would be ideal; however, print reporters can more easily pick and choose a good quote from hours of conversation.
 
For television, when you are asked a question, repeat the body of the question in your response so that you create a complete thought or sound bite. That way, if your interview is edited, it is more likely that your quote will stand on its own and not be misrepresented.
 
A challenge you may face is putting very scientific or complex information into short and simple phrases that the public can understand. Preparing message (talking) points and anticipating questions and preparing answers ahead of time will make this much easier. If you only have time for two short sentences, what would they be?
 
If the interview is for a news magazine or documentary, quotes or sound bites could be fairly lengthy and more may be used. In those cases, it may even include the interviewer’s question and follow-ups.
 
Obviously, you cannot force a reporter to quote you in a favorable way. All you can do is prepare irresistibly quotable quotes that reinforce your message and try to get them across in the interview.
 
Beware of “sight bites” which are purely visual. These are the non-verbal queues the audience gets from your television interview. 
Never put your hand on the camera lens, slam a door in the reporter’s face, or run away.

  • Don't nod when listening to the question. It will appear as if you are agreeing with the reporter.
  • Smile only at appropriate times. When the interview is finished, the reporter may want additional videotape (referred to as B-roll/background). The microphone may or may not be off, but the camera will be ON. The reporter usually ask you to chat about the weather, sports, etc., to appear conversational. Ensure your movements (facial gestures, hand gestures, etc.) match the posture of the interview.
  • Do not tell jokes of kid around with a reporter. This is especially important during B-roll/background video as the reporter may not be asking you questions and you are trying to come up with something to talk about. Remember, the microphone may still be on and some people can read lips.
  • Be sure the background is an appropriate setting for the interview.

Always respond in a professional manner.  If you are unsure of a media situation, the Corporate Communications Office is prepared to help you. Please give us a call at (309) 794-5274.