Beware the ‘Hot Mic’: 4 Tips to Remember for Media Interviews

Presidential campaign season is full of great examples of what not to do during a media interview. If you’re following the current presidential race at all, you may have seen the headline from The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago – “Caught on a hot mic, Clinton speculates about Chris Christie’s support for Trump.”

Now, regardless of your personal political leanings (or the debate as to whether this was a strategic move on Hillary Clinton’s part), there’s a valuable lesson for business leaders when it comes to media interviews. You never know when the mic in front of you or attached to your lapel is “hot,” (meaning, picking up your every word).

Here are four tips to help you remain on your guard when it comes to media interviews.

1. There’s no such thing as “off the record.”

No matter how sincere a reporter sounds, if you hear the words “off the record,” don’t fall for the trap. Anything you say can and will be used by a reporter, especially if it’s a scoop no other journalist has access to at the time.

2. Beware the “hot mic.”
As we have seen many times on the political front, microphones can lead to extreme gaffes that are tough to overcome in the court of public opinion. If you are in front of or within potential earshot of a microphone or other recording device, be mindful of your conversations. This is especially important to remember in conjunction with No. 1. Many business leaders have fallen into the pre-on-air-interview trap of casual conversation, like that between Clinton and Chris Matthews, while in front of a hot mic.

3. Never say “no comment.”
It is always best to say something of substance in response to a reporter to support your message, mission or stance. A “no comment” response to the general public says, “I’m guilty,” or “I have something to hide.” Whether that is a prepared statement emailed to a reporter or a short, rehearsed response, it is always best to say something – anything – other than no comment.

4. Always assume the camera (or smartphone) is rolling.
Is that camera guy casually standing with the camera by his side simply resting? And, is that media intern holding her smartphone checking Facebook or secretly gathering footage of your conversation with her boss? It’s not out of the ordinary for these items to be rolling in an attempt to catch you off guard – especially in a crisis situation or ambush-style interview. Always assume that the camera is rolling in any situation and be cautious of what you say and do.

*Photo courtesy The Washington Post