Negotiating Interviews: Media Management Benefits from Negotiation Skills

By: Kara L. Lamb, June 18, 2019

Have you ever wondered what, if anything, media management has in common with negotiation? Consider Mike Klis introduction to media for the 2019 Denver Broncos rookies. When describing media relations to the future faces of the Broncos, Klis made three points: 

  1. Keep the media at a distance; be professional. 
  2. Working with the media is a “give and take.” 
  3. Be respectful because this is a professional relationship. 

Thinking about Klis’ lessons, the answer to the question about connecting media management and negotiation is pretty simple. In essence, a media interview is a negotiation.

First, a well-conducted media interview is one that acts and feels like a constructive conversation. That conversation includes the first principles of negotiation. You need to know the positions of the parties. You also need to know the interests and concerns behind those positions—especially if you are to facilitate any sort of constructive conversation. Be sure to assess the topic of the media interview in light of the positions and interests of the media representative.

Second, how is the reporter framing the story? As you prepare for the interview think about the media representative’s desired outcome of this conversation. Who has the reporter talked to and what perspectives, or “frames,” from other conversations are you hearing in the reporter’s questions? The information you share with the reporter, in light of these frames of understanding, will set the path for you to transition from the story currently being told to the story you need stakeholders and others to hear. Use this information to build talking points and short, but easy to understand, position statements. Knowing the reporter’s frame is how you prepare for an interview.

Last, mind your manners. Do not be on the defensive. Answer questions clearly and succinctly. Be sure to follow up on questions and clarify confusing statements the reporter might ask. In Mike Klis’ briefing he stressed the importance of not over reacting to what you might perceive as stupid questions. Over reaction will lead you to make statements you will later regret. Instead, acknowledge the reporter’s questions, concerns, and perspectives. And do not be afraid to use your answers to the questions as a way to lead into your own story, perspectives, and concerns. By engaging and packaging your message, you can facilitate the interview so your positions and concerns become part of the conversation.

These basics of negotiation, assessing, preparing, engaging, and packaging messages, are principles that also make for a good guide when interviewing with a reporter. Just as they help the facilitator or negotiator drive the conversation into a positive direction, they help you as the interviewee guide a reporter to the story you need told. 

Remember these basics. As a result, your interviews, as well as your other negotiations, will be smoother.

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