It’s a Performance, Not a Conversation: Capitalizing on Media Attention

Fraud examiners are frequently asked to conduct interviews, pilfer through written and online data, and sometimes give expert testimony. They are rarely asked to give media performances. Although a performance is exactly what anti-fraud professionals need to do when working with the media, according to Katherine McLane, founding partner of The Mach 1 Group in Austin, Texas. “A good interview is never a conversation; it is a performance,” McLane said. “It takes time and skill and training to master the art.” 

This art is something that all professionals need to practice and perfect ahead of time, so that they are prepared to speak with media either about their organization or a specific case. McLane, no stranger to controversy, worked as a public relations expert for Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation and for former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office.

She advised attendees in one of Monday’s educational sessions at the 26th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference to not be afraid of the press, but rather be prepared for them.
“If you are wondering why you should talk to reporters, think about the bigger question,” she said. “What happens if you don’t? If you don’t comment or you ignore them, you seed the field for competition, you leave reporters to their own devices, and if you are silent, they will assume something is up.”

According to McLane, your silence could be far worse than your fear of being interviewed. In order to get over your fear or hesitancy, you must understand exactly what it is that reporters want: crisis, change and/or controversy (or the three Cs, as McLane calls them). These three things are what most journalists, of print, online or broadcast news, want when looking for a headline. Fortunately for you, McLane said that if you imagine the headline you want to see and deliver the key messages for you or your company, a story can end up exactly how you want it to.

“Write down your key messages,” McLane said. “Make them simple and short. Assume the audience listening has no context. This will help you when you are answering questions either on-the-spot or ahead of time.” She encouraged attendees to also think in terms of soundbites. You want your answers to be quick and to-the-point. She said to answer first and explain later. 

One tip she gave that many people struggle with is what to do during an awkward pause on live television or even on the phone when speaking with a reporter. She said that people’s natural tendency is to fill in an awkward pause with extra information or to keep talking, but this is a potential danger. According to McLane, reporters are hoping you will fill the silence with unrehearsed and candid thoughts that could give them one of the three types of stories they are hoping to break (remember those three Cs).

McLane left the audience with the “Dos” and “Don’ts” when dealing with the media:


  1. Do your homework.
  2. Be prepared with key messages.
  3. Practice facing a hostile or uncomfortable question.
  4. Know how to redirect and answer the question you want.


  1. Speak off the record.
  2. Lose your temper or engage in an argument.
  3. Make light of a serious conversation.
  4. Say “no comment.”
  5. Discuss things you don’t know about.
  6. Repeat negatives.
  7. Try to impress.