I guess I am in a fairly unique position in that I see things from both sides of the divide. I often find myself interviewing auto industry execs but, from time to time, the tables are turned and I find myself being interviewed for comment. If you find yourself being interviewed by the media, here are a few golden rules. 1. If at all possible, it is better to avoid 'off the record' altogether. Think about how far you want to go before you say something. Be careful. Walking away with the knowledge that you have not said anything at all which could get you into trouble is a good feeling. 2. Sometimes you cannot avoid going off the record to make the interview work. If you do, make it very clear that what you are saying is 'off' and not to be used. Make an explicit break when you want to go 'on' again, so that there is no misunderstanding about where the off the record stuff ended. Most reputable journalists will respect that. (If they don't they get a bad reputation and no-one wants to work with them.) The art of the good interview is getting the trust of the interviewee and getting them to open up in a way that suits both sides. Ultimately, rapport and a relationship that spans years can be invaluable to both parties. 3. If you want to use an analogy to illustrate a point, be very, very careful. It may seem okay at the time and well, you're getting on just fine with the interviewer. Maybe you are making the point ironically or with a big smile on your face. But when it is in print later and when it is picked up by others out of context and reproduced, perhaps it won't look so clever or witty.
Humberto Rodriguez, director of design for Fiat and Lancia, interviewed and quoted by the Financial Times recently: 'A car is like a woman. If at 18 she is great, then at 30 she is all fat and old, that's no good.'