One of the biggest complaints I hear from organizations dealing with media is the beef that they are frequently misquoted. While this does  occur, my personal experience is that many organization spokespeople are often so unprepared when media comes calling that they ramble and forget what they said. Hence, the common belief that they were misquoted because they don’t recall saying something in that way.

Well, first of all, make sure you have stock messages for the most common questions about your organizations. That’s Media Training 101. These stock messages ensure that whomever is being interviewed in your organization, the key messages about core programs, etc., will be the same.

But avoiding being misquoted goes beyond just the above. It begins with how you answer questions from the media. Above all, answer slowly and think your words before you speak them. Remember, you’re speaking with a reporter. You are not sitting around a dinner table having a casual conversation.

There are two danger areas where you can be misquoted. 1) In an actual quote; 2) In a paraphrased paragraph attributed to you.

Most misquoting occurs because of three common factors:

  • You speak too fast, making it difficult for the reporter to keep up
  • You speak in too complex terms, long-winded words, jargon, and long rambling sentences
  • You liberally throw in words like ‘but’ and ‘I think’ too often and appear to change your thoughts mid-sentence making your thoughts unclear, and making it unclear whether views are your own or your organization. When you do this you make a reporter have to work that much harder to extrapolate what you’re saying

Use these 7 skills to improve accuracy of reporter’s notetaking:

  1. Speak slowly
  2. Use pauses
  3. Stick to simple words > avoid being technical, eliminate jargon
  4. Stick to short sentences
  5. Use standalone sentences
  6. Cut the qualifiers > “I think” “I believe” “I feel” “I hope” > lack certainty, can imply opinion
  7. Cut the “but” > puts into question whatever you said prior to the “but”