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!


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