Don’t Be Misquoted — Speak Clearly!
It’s every spokesperson’s worst fear. You land an interview with a key reporter, have a great conversation, and then open the paper the following morning to find you’re quoted saying something you don’t remember saying.
Reporters don’t typically operate in bad faith. So a quote that you see as a misrepresentation of what you said may actually represent a misunderstanding of what you said.
Here are a few tips that can help you avoid being misquoted.
First, don’t filibuster. If a reporter asks about how capping the mortgage-interest tax deduction will affect home prices, answer the question directly — don’t start off by offering a history of the mortgage-interest tax deduction. A short answer is a lot easier to understand than a long one. And reporters generally appreciate when you give them the information they’re looking for quickly, rather than forcing them to parse a long statement for a quotable nugget.
Second, speak for yourself. It may be tempting to show a reporter that you’re familiar with what other experts are saying about a given topic — or to seek safety in numbers, by positioning your opinion alongside those of others in your field.
But if a reporter is speaking to you, he is probably not interested in what other people are saying — he wants to know what you believe. A reporter can easily interpret “Many people are saying that capping the mortgage-interest tax deduction will lead to lower home prices” as “John Smith, an expert with whom I spoke, said that capping the mortgage-interest tax deduction will lead to lower home prices.”