Based on how much the media loves us Muslims, there is no telling when you might get the next call to answer “a few questions”. Many times, media professionals rely on people whose message they want to sell. So, if the media wants to sell the progressive message or the radical message (for some reason, they do seem to forget the 99% in the middle, don’t they??), they will have particular people in mind. And then quite often, they will look for a corroborating or contradicting opinion from the local Imam or President of the local Islamic mosque or society. Here is where the problem ensues!
Unfortunately, many of our Muslim leaders are not trained in interacting or dealing with the media. So, sometimes, quite inadvertently, these leaders will say things that come off as either completely ignorant or completely negative. Obviously the leaders didn’t mean to look like fools, but once the sound-byte is out, it is usually too late to control the damage. So, I hope that our communities will realize the need for media training for all our leaders (Imams, Presidents, etc.) and even consider the urgent need for professional PR persons (especially for the larger organizations). It is definitely worth a few bucks, especially because good sound-bytes can also be a form of good dawah!
Until that happens, and I am not holding my breath, I thought it would be good to share few media tips with our readers. I have always hoped that my dive back into school (business school in my case) didn’t emanate from a symptom of mid-life crises, but rather would be of benefit to both my career and to my brothers and sisters in Islam. So, I bring these tips to you straight from the experts (based on videos by Amy Sharp- a media professional).
First of all, you should know that interacting with the media is an extremely useful skill, which like all other skills takes time to learn, practice and hone. There is always a good chance that one time or another, you will have the opportunity (or be forced) to speak with the media. You may be speaking on behalf of yourself, your company, or as a Muslim, your religion.
Many people feel that reporters are out to get you. And I cannot blame Muslims for feeling that, because I do believe that FOX, for example, is in fact out to get us! But other than FOX Noise, most other media outlets (although they may still not be completely fair and balanced), are really not out to get you. Rather, they are out to get a good story! Sensationalist stories make for good stories, so Muslims do need to remain alert and understand how to deal with reporters, especially the ones who can get over-zealous (and you will learn through these tips about the importance of research in order to isolate these over-zealous reporters).
What is presented here is of course the most basic of skills in interacting with media. These skills will not be good enough to be gainfully employed as a public-relations officer, but they will help you formulate a plan of action if you do get picked for the prized opportunity to deal with a reporter! These basic skills will also help you avoid misrepresenting whatever topic you are being asked about. For Muslims, it is especially important not to misrepresent Islam, because in a way our religion is a trust from Allah, which is not something to be taken lightly.
In this series of three posts, you will learn how to control your first interactions with the reporter, how to not say something you don’t mean to say, how to craft your message, how to take control of the interview, and last but certainly not the least, how to appear confident.
- First Interactions with the Reporter
- Crafting the Right Message
- Taking Control
- Appearing Confident