Negotiate Conversations Like a Reporter

Most people know I went to law school but not everyone knows I first graduated with a Broadcast Journalism degree. During that time, I was a DJ at Texas Tech’s radio station and a news intern at KAMC-TV, the ABC affiliate in Lubbock. If you promise not to laugh at my high voice and strong Texas accent, you can watch clips from a few of my “riveting” stories on KAMC and KTXT:

Watching these first media attempts allowed me to reflect on lessons from seasoned reporters about interviewing, negotiating my way around influential people and getting the most from short conversations.

In the Passport to Success book, Be a Newsmaker: Master the Media with Clarity, Command & Credibility, co-author Lorri Allen and I  discuss how to succeed when being interviewed by the media.

Many skills that reporters use are practiced by seasoned negotiators including:

  • Be calm, confident and composed.

  • Stay on your message topic.

  • Watch your body language.

  • Lean forward, listen and keep your posture and face open.

  • Be honest, do the right thing and put others first.

People are often afraid when placed on the spot. Here are some insider tricks to watch for and help you survive interviews, negotiations and tough conversations.

  • Silence. The reporter waits, hoping you feel uncomfortable and fill the silence. This is a great negotiation technique. Ask questions, wait and let them talk. You learn more and the other side can tell you what they really want.

  • Putting you at ease. The journalist starts off friendly and then, when the camera is rolling, asks a zinger. During a negotiation, putting others at ease increases your chances of learning key information  and arriving at a mutually beneficial outcome. However, watch when someone is too friendly a bit too soon. It may not be authentic.

  • Feigned disbelief. Reporters doubt statements or needle people they are interviewing to goad them into revealing more. During a negotiation, showing surprise, disbelief or even respectful skepticism can encourage the other person to open up more and clear up misunderstandings.

  • False statements or putting words in your mouth. This nasty trick is often used when an interviewer is actually ignorant of the facts and/or is looking for the interviewee’s emotional reaction to uncover more information. In a negotiation, this negative tactic is called “fishing.” Do not use false statements and avoid any relationships with people who lie to get ahead.

  • “No comment.” Try not to use this statement with the media. When negotiating and having tough conversations, it is perfectly fine to say “That is not information I can give you at this time. I’m sorry.” Or even, “I don’t know. I can attempt to find out. Is it important?”

My media training has been invaluable. After viewing those video clips, it is clear that I don’t need to quit my day job!

Journey On!