Brian Edwards Media

Media Tip: If You Can’t Tell The Truth, Stay Away

angel-of-truthThere are times when it is not in your best interests to be interviewed by the media. The most important one is when you can’t tell the truth.

If you can’t tell the truth – stay away. This is one of our fundamental maxims. You can regard it as moral or practical advice. Since we aren’t in the morals business, we’ll stick to the practical. The best reason for not lying to the media is that you will eventually be found out. You can be as smart as paint, but the media has a finely honed instinct for lies, prevarications and avoidances. In the end, the truth will come out and it will be damaging to both you and your organisation.

The best advice for anyone dealing with the media is: Be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes.  And if your lawyer turns pale at the last suggestion, well, two out of three ain’t bad.

View other media tips


  1. 1 Soft light is your friend. Don’t let the cameraperson put you underneath a halogen spot.

    2 If you’re a guy and get a five o’clock shadow, try to shave, especially if you’re appearing on a mid-evening current affairs programme, or TVNZ7

    3 In these times of cutbacks, if you’re going to do a live interviews, ask the producer whether there will be a make-up artist.

    4 Do not let your “communications adviser” set the room up so that the cameras are facing windows. Do not suggest the interview be done in a small room with white walls or risk getting a technical lecture from a barely-literate cameraperson involving high contrast backgrounds and depth-of-field. Do not say “But this is where we normally do interviews”. Do not insist that your organisations signage is in the background. Keep your body square to the camera, and turn your head to the reporter. Big room good, small office bad.

    5 Please, please, please answer the first question without hitting all the key points you have practiced repeatedly with your “communications adviser” prior to the interview. You will sound like a slippery idiot. When answering questions, sometimes a single word answer is a great way of defusing a tough question, especially in a tv interview if the reporter (and their question) isn’t miked. Beware you don’t sound flippant.

    6 Try not to be offended when a bright-eyed 23 year old asks you to summarise 30 years of intensive, sophisticated research.

    • 1 Soft light is your friend. Don’t let the cameraperson put you underneath a halogen spot.

      Don’t know who you are, Kino Flo, but those are all good points, especially #5. We are always having to undo the work done by Communications Managers who want their clients to parrot the company’s “key messages”, regardless of the questions or context. The client ends up like an actor with lines to deliver. Unfortunately the other actor – the interviewer – rarely gives the right cues for those rehearsed lines. “Messages” of any sort don’t belong in media interviews. JC & BE

  2. Dear Judy,
    This post of yours is being cited as a possible source of political guidance for the Nactional Gummint oover at The Standard


  3. Excellent!