Friday, January 27, 2012

"I NEVER SAID THAT !!" - How To Avoid Being Misquoted

(Article reading time:  2 minutes)

by Jim Cameron / Cameron Communications

Hardly a week goes by that a media training client doesn’t tell me they’ve been previously misquoted in an interview.  But first, let’s understand what a “quote” really is.

Some reporters think of a quote as a verbatim transcription of your words. To others it’s just an accurate paraphrase.  But some reporters will clean up grammar or take things out of context.  The first two “definitions” are, in my view, fair.  The last two are not.

Here are some tips on avoiding misquotes:

      DECIDE ON YOUR QUOTES IN ADVANCE:   Craft your messages in sound bites, practice them out loud but deliver them conversationally.

      SLOW DOWN WHEN YOU WANT TO BE QUOTED:  Most reporters take notes on the fly, either with pen and paper or by keyboard if you’re on the phone.  You can talk faster than they can write, so slow down when you want them to accurately write down your words.

      STAY “ON THE RECORD”:   Not all reporters agree on what “off the record” means, so don’t go there.  Stay on message and that’s all a reporter will have to choose from when picking a quote.

      ASK FOR A READ-BACK:   At the end of an interview, ask the reporter to read back to you any verbatim quotes they may have taken.  If they don’t sound right, this is your last chance to correct them before publication.

      TAPE YOUR INTERVIEWS:   Using a pocket-recorder to record your end of a phone call will give you a record of what you really said.  If your interview is face to face, show the reporter you’re taping it (blame your lawyers) but don’t imply you don’t trust the reporter.  When reporters know you have a recording of what you said, they’ll be ultra-careful in quoting you.

       IF YOU’RE STILL MISQUOTED, COMPLAIN:   Point out to the reporter that you think you were misquoted.  If they disagree, make your case to their editor.  Keep a civil tone, but ask if the reporter can’t accurately a simple quote, doesn’t that raise reader questions about the accuracy of everything else.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll greatly reduce your chances of being misquoted!


(Article reading time:  2 minutes) 

by Amy Fond / Cameron Communications

My two-year-old takes ballet. She dresses up in a tutu once a week and basically stares at herself in the mirror for the whole class. But the other night I caught her standing in front of her mirror doing her “moves”. When I asked her what she was doing she said, "Practicing." It wasn't really hard for her to make room in her busy day to practice pirouettes - but it got me thinking how, as adults, it's hard to find the time to practice things...anything. When we were younger we practiced all the time. We caught fly balls for hours and parallel parked in an empty parking lot again and again. But somehow as adults, we never have the time to practice. It's one of the most important lessons I include in every training I do. If you don't practice, you won't get better. Simple to say and yet, in reality, hard to do. 

So I've been pleasantly surprised to hear stories from people I've trained about how they practice their communication skills in very simple ways. Little things they do throughout their day, week or month that help them become better communicators and presenters.

 IMPROVING EYE CONTACT   One analyst at a major bank shared that during phone conversations he stares at a small sculpture he has on a bookshelf, at eye level, across the room from him. He uses the sculpture to help him practice for when he does remote interviews and he's required to stare into the camera lens the whole time.  During a remote interview - it's just you and the camera. You hear the reporter in your ear through an ear piece. No human contact at all. If you look away from the camera during the interview you may come across as nervous or unsure. So every time this analyst takes a call, he practices his eye contact and practices talking to the camera while listening to the reporter in his ear.

BETTER BRIDGING   An executive at a national nonprofit told me she wanted to get better at “bridging” - a technique we went over to help work her way out of tough questions by transitioning or “bridging” from one topic to the next. So the executive decided to practice her skills with her teenage daughter. She picked a few parental messages - "clean your room" and "wear your seatbelt" - and she'd try to work one at a time into the conversation as often as possible. Her daughter would bring up a topic - and her mom would try to bridge to "clean your room." The executive said she knew she had gotten better when she was able to bridge from clothes to curfews.  

GESTURING   Another executive at a large healthcare company told me she uses her weekly briefings with her staff to practice her gesturing. She used to do the briefings by phone so everyone could stay at their desks, but she decided to move the meetings to her office. She now has a small audience every Monday to practice her presentation skills. Sometimes she sits and sometimes she stands, but she says she's always thinking about her body language and how she's using her gestures to highlight her points.

FINDING YOUR VOICE  A vice president at a PR agency told me that he practices his delivery by leaving messages for himself on his home voice mail. It was already a habit he had. If he had to remember something, he'd call home and remind himself. So he decided to use his messages as ways to practice his tone and inflection. Instead of leaving quick notes for himself he spoke longer and was more conscious of his voice, tone and speed of delivery. 

They say practice makes perfect. But often, practice just makes better. Andre Agassi once said that he got to the top of his field in tennis by hitting over a thousand balls a day. But who has the time?  Instead, work in little ways each week to amp up your skills - you'll be surprised how much small steps can make you a better communicator.