Since Alice Collins left her job as dressage editor at Horse & Hound, she has been flying around the world enjoying herself. To while away time spent at cruising height, Out and About Dressage commissioned Alice to explain how riders are most likely to find their stories featured in published media. 

“HAVE YOU ever won a class and been interviewed by a journalist, but felt tongue-tied or unsure of what to say?” asks Alice Collins, “Here are hints on the sort of things that journalists hope you’ll say in those situations — and a few they’d be happy to never hear again.

“Firstly, remember that journalists are out to create good content that people will want to read, so adding ‘colour’ to your own or your horse’s story is a must.

Journalists dread interviewees who say: ‘I’m over the moon’, ‘I’m just delighted with him’, ‘He was so with me in there,’ and… ‘I just love this horse so much. I can’t believe we won’ …or ‘I’d like to thank my sponsors, without whom none of this would be possible’.

“If the journalist is even still writing by the end of any of these quotes, they’re definitely thinking, ‘Oh please, no, not another of these general quotes…’ It’s worth remembering that journalists more often than not have more material than they can use. So it is imperative to say something more original and memorable, then you’re far less likely to end up on the cutting room floor when the journalist or sub is trying to write to a strict word count or make the report fit into its allocated space.

The general quote could be rephrased — and improved — something like this: “I was coming down that final centre line thinking to myself, ‘Yes, we’ve bloody nailed this test. My horse rocks. I was flabbergasted that the judge agreed’

“The sponsor point is also important. Sponsors can be  invaluable to a rider, but a list of sponsors that every rider would like to thank makes for dreadfully dull reading. If there truly is a person/sponsor/product that has made a vital difference, then flesh out the story. Were you given a saddle that transformed the horse’s way of going? Did you change feed or supplements and find your horse’s attitude metamorphosed overnight? These sorts of stories, with detail, are interesting.

“The way you come across in interviews is also key. Journos are not people to be scared of, so don’t stand in petrified silence and wait for them to ask the question that opens the Pandora’s box of your story. If you know something incredible has happened to you or the horse (a remarkable return from injury, a hilarious habit the horse has, a surprising training trick, someone who has gone above and beyond to contribute to this win etc, etc), then for god’s sake tell them! Time pressures mean that journalists often don’t have as long as they’d like to interview you, so give them a helping hand by offering the most interesting information to them straight up.

“Riders who are good talkers — Anna Ross and Carl Hester spring immediately to mind as animated, honest interviewees who use surprising and diverse vocabulary — are far more likely to be called on again to contribute. So the more open and verbally gymnastic you are, the more likely you are to be featured again. Up your interview game to up your profile. It’s a win, win, win situation.

“Don’t be afraid of being honest. No horse in the world is a machine; they all have their idiosyncrasies and it’s these details that people want to read about. Keep in the back of your mind that quotes should entertain or inform, so if yours are bland vanilla answers, don’t be too shocked if you don’t make the final cut.

“Of course you cannot write the report/feature for the journalist and you have to hope that your quotes will be strung together artfully, but you can go a long way to helping them write an engaging report by giving them excellent quotes to work with.”

© Out and About Dressage, 3 November 2017

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