Why you should never go to lunch with a reporter

You've finally lined up a media interview with that influential reporter you've been after for months. Rather than doing the interview over the phone, however, one of you suggests meeting for lunch (I've seen both clients and journalists initiate this idea).

Great idea, right?

Wrong. A media interview isn't a networking opportunity. It isn't a get-together with one of your buddies. And it certainly isn't a conversation.

A media interview should be a strategic exchange of information aimed at getting your key messages into the final story, whether it's in print, radio, TV or online.

As I explained in a previous post, the ideal media interview should be about five minutes long. The rationale behind keeping it short is to try and have some influence over which quotes make it into the story (and perhaps more importantly, which quotes don't make it into the story). It boils down to simple math. The more sentences you speak, the lower your ability to indirectly control which messages the reporter will select.

I don't enjoy working through my lunch. And I'm guessing you don't either. Having lunch with a reporter isn't just lunch. It's an hour-long interview that happens to take place in the vicinity of food and drink. Keep in mind that anything you say over the course of lunch is fair game for the reporter's story.

So leave lunches, dinners and drinks for family, friends and clients. And keep your media interviews short, disciplined and out of the restaurants. The result will be more control over your messages and better media coverage for you and your company.

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