by Cam Leedahl
Do we need a spokesperson for our group? You do need to be careful who will speak to the press. Mishandling an interview or misrepresenting homeschooling can give a very negative or distorted view of home education that would be difficult to overcome. It is wise to choose a main spokesperson, but also good to have one or two others who would be reliable and ready.
What qualifications should the spokesperson(s) have? Some special qualities would include: availability on a short notice, ability to express oneself, condition of their home, behavior of children, broad knowledge of homeschooling and the laws, experience, tact and diplomacy, able to stay pleasant even in stressful situations, and a good listener.
How can one prepare to be a good spokesperson? The most important thing is to be a good example of a parent educator. Do a good deal of reading about homeschooling. Familiarize yourself with the different philosophies and approaches. Keep current in knowledge of your local laws and pending bills. Educate yourself with some of the articles, books and tapes that deal with media relations. Inge Cannon has an excellent audio tape entitled, “How to Present Home Education in the Best Possible Light.”
What ideas do you have that could help in an interview? Read “Talking Tips” Anticipate the contact that eventually will come, and practice the answers to four or five common questions until you have them down pat. If there is time before the interview, give some comments or information in writing to the reporter. These might help to frame his mind, as well as provide an opportunity for him to have a more expansive article. During the interview, don’t be baited into responding with a remark you’ll wish you’d never made. If you don’t like the reporter’s inquiry, answer a question of your own. And, relax! You will get more articulate and comfortable with practice.
(From Camilla Leedahl’s book, The Homeschool Support Group: A Handbook for Christian Leaders, Hearthside Publications, 1996. Used with permission.)