You have a message to get out, and reporters have a story to write. Your goal is to make sure the reporters tell your story accurately.
But how can you get reporters to pay careful attention to what you’re saying during a media interview?
There’s a key interview technique you need. It’s called Flagging. You use specific “flagging” phrases to signal to the reporter what you’re about to say is important.
Reporters don’t have time to listen to rambling. And they don’t have superhuman listening abilities. Even though they’re trained to listen better than the average person, they may struggle to focus attention on what you’re saying, just like anyone else. They may tune out parts of the conversation, especially if it starts getting off track. They might also start thinking about their next question or get distracted by looking down at their notes.
When that happens, you need to get their attention back. And that’s where flagging becomes an essential tool in your arsenal of media interviewing techniques.
Flagging is an interview technique that highlights the most important parts of your messages. Flagging uses key words and phrases to grab a reporter’s attention and hook them back into the conversation.
Some flagging phrases include:
As you can see, most of these flagging phrases are common transitions that help redirect the conversation with your main points. They highlight the important details that reporters are looking for in a media interview.
Every media interview is unique in its own way: the reporters change, the topics change, and your own familiarity with the talking points may vary depending on the topic.
It’s not easy to succeed in getting accurate and favorable press from a news outlet. That’s why flagging and other media preparation strategies are so crucial to learn.
Most of the time, you won’t be able to sit down with every reporter in person. Phone interviews are a good way to reach the most news outlets in the shortest amount of time and tell them the gist of the situation.
But without nonverbal cues to help communicate your main points, it’s suddenly a lot harder to keep a reporter’s interest. That’s why verbal cues such as flagging are a must when conducting over-the-phone interviews. It’s helpful to write out notes to refer to during the phone call. Include flagging phrases in these notes if you’re not great at using them on the fly.
Time isn’t always your ally when news breaks. Though you may have a written statement to follow, you want to sound as natural and prepared for the interview as possible.
That’s why flagging can be a useful fallback when you need to draw in focus on the main points. It’s natural, conversational, and professional language that will make you sound like you know what’s going on. Flagging also creates easy soundbites for reporters and media outlets to pull from and can make all the difference on building a strong reputation for your organization.
Not all media interviews are going to be in your best interest. But having a statement out there for the public can mitigate the damage or put a positive spin on the current state of affairs.
Reporters love to deliver rapid-fire, hard-pressing questions that keep you on your toes. But if you take a deep breath and use flagging to redirect the conversation, then you stay in control of what they’re jotting down.
Flagging is a great communication technique to add to your repertoire, but it has to be used effectively to deliver the desired results. For starters, we recommend that you understand and clarify your key messages based on our how-to guide How to Prepare for a Media Interview.
If a question will address a key issue, make sure to use an appropriate flagging phrase to get the reporter’s attention. This is especially important on your first and final comments which have the most impact.
Media interviews are your best chance at reeling in the public. They cast a wide net, especially if you’re able to hook a big news platform. However, interviews can also make or break your personal and corporate reputation. You should never go unprepared!
That’s why it pays to have proper media interview preparation training from experienced trainers that know the ins and outs of the trade.
Our media trainers are all former journalists that have advised countless corporate clients in media preparation training. From FTSE100 CEOs, global corporates and top executives, we’ve helped them all learn the ropes for every type of media interview.
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