Advice when you are to be interviewed
View any contact with the media as an opportunity – even if the questions are probing, contact with the media provides an opportunity to present your view of what has happened, and to describe it in your own words. If you decide not to answer, you leave the task of providing your description to someone else.
Meet the journalist with a pleasant demeanour – good relationships are always a benefit. Base your position on the idea that the journalist wants to give you the opportunity to describe in your own words, and to present your version.
Before starting to answer questions – find out which issues the journalist is going to take up. This will enable you to decide whether you are the most suitable person to answer the questions.
It is not necessary to answer immediately – ask the journalist for the opportunity to answer later, if you need to check your facts, for example, or think thorough how you want to answer. Take the journalist’s name and contact details and agree about when the next contact should be made. Respect the professionalism of the journalist and make sure that you keep any agreements you make. You should call back at a certain time if you have promised to do so. Journalists have times and deadlines that must be kept.
Preparing for an interview
Thorough preparation. Get up to speed about what has happened, why it has happened, what measures are to be taken, and when the situation is to be resolved. Consider what is important for you to emphasise. Prepare short, simple and clear statements about important points, and use examples to illustrate your points. Prepare answers to the questions that you can expect to face, and try to predict what follow-up questions the interviewer will pose. Journalists are often interested in your values – your view of a situation, what you think, how you are feeling, how you have reacted to an event, etc.
Consider how your statement may be presented, and think about the role you hold while making a statement. If the interview deals with your work or conditions at work, for example, it is likely that you will be seen as a representative for Karolinska Institutet in its entirety. It’s a good idea to discuss the interview in advance with a colleague or your superior, or you may like to contact the KI Press Office for advice.
Before the interview
Help the journalist get the facts right – it’s a good idea to provide the journalist with reports or documents before the interview. This makes it easier for you to get to the interesting issues more rapidly.
Find out about background preconditions – what sort of interview will you be giving, and how will it be presented? A news item requires short and pithy answers, while in a longer report you may have better opportunities to give more detailed answers and give deeper insights. It’s a good idea to ask the journalist who else will be contributing to the report.
Keep to a reasonable time schedule – don’t let the interview drag on too long! It is difficult to retain concentration for more than 40-45 minutes. Inform the journalist how long you have assigned to the interview, and this will make it easier for you both.
Request an opportunity to read the text before it is published – this will give you the chance to check that the journalist has understood you correctly. Correct any factual errors, but remember that it is the journalist who decides on an angle, and which parts of your answers are to be included in the article or report.
Don’t wait for the right question. If you have got something important to say, say it!
Answer honestly. If you can’t answer, or don’t want to answer, say so – and then explain why.
Don’t speculate about things for which you are not responsible, things that you don’t know about, or things about which you lack knowledge. Be careful when making predictions or guesses.
Remember the target group. It is the target group or audience of the journalist that is to understand what you say.
Take breaks. If you discover that your answer is getting tangled, take a break and ask to answer the question again.
Facing criticism – show empathy, take responsibility and make it clear what you are going to do to solve the situation.
The principle of public access
- The Swedish “principle of public access” gives the general public and the media the right to scrutinise activities of the government, county councils and municipalities. The principle of public access is expressed in various ways:
- everyone is allowed to read public documents held by public authorities (public access to official documents)
- civil servants and others who work in the central government sector or for local authorities have the right to tell outsiders what they know (freedom of expression for civil servants and others)
- civil servants also enjoy special freedoms to provide information to the media (freedom to publish for civil servants and others)
- court proceedings are open to the public, as are meetings of legislative assemblies.