I’m going to ask you three questions and I want you to take as much time as you need to think about each one before you answer. Here we go:
—If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? And why?
—If you were on a desert island, what three CDs would you take along, and why?
—If you won the lottery today, describe your life six months from now.
“The answers can’t be rehearsed beforehand,” Gregg says. “Your subject will have to look to his/her inner self to answer. It may take a minute. There may be silence for an extended period. That’s OK. That’s exactly what we want. We want the subject to dig deep for an answer.”
Gregg, who has almost 20 years of journalism experience, launched his website, NewsCollege, in February. It includes a wide variety of tips for media people.
He encourages reporters to stray from the standard “name, rank and serial number” questions during interviews so they can really get to know their subjects.
His 10 questions are exactly the kind you need to be braced for if a reporter is interviewing you. Don’t mention the first thing that comes into your head. Really take time to think about it, and don’t be shy about asking the reporter, “Can I have a few minutes to think about this? It’s such a good question that I want a little time to develop my answer.”
As Gregg said, the reporter will probably be grateful you’re taking the question seriously.
If you’re doing a taped TV interview, you can even ask the reporter to turn off the camera for awhile until you have time to collect your thoughts.
Al Guyant, a former newspaper reporter, says Publicity Hounds need to know the differences between reporters at newspapers, magazines, TV stations, radio stations, Internet news sites and news services. When working with print reporters, for example, you can take more time explaining things. Not so with broadcast reporters who are usually looking only for sound bites.
Al was my guest during a telephone seminar a few years ago called “The Dangerous Hidden Secrets of Print & Broadcast Reporters.” He outlined the strengths and weaknesses of each type of reporter, and explained how to hold your ground with each.