There are only two valid reasons for considering turning down a media interview.
The first is that you feel you do not know enough about the subject to do it (or yourself) justice.
The second reason is that you are not empowered by your organisation to speak on the subject.
First of all, before you make any decision, remember how valuable media exposure may be to you or your organisation. Raising your profile is the name of the game now.
If you feel you do not know enough about the subject, ask yourself whether you can brief yourself sufficiently before the interview. You will have been approached because you are in some way linked to the subject, so a little light research might be all that is needed. Remember that interviews, especially broadcast ones, tend to be very short, with the questioning way below PhD level.
The second reason – not being allowed to talk on the subject – is more complex and potentially more damaging.
You have been approached by the media because your position in your organisation suggests that you would be the ideal person to be interviewed. But if you have to tell journalists that you are not allowed to discuss this particular matter, they may well be surprised…surprised enough to consider it a good story – “XX Corporation has decided to gag its senior managers, refusing them permission to discuss…”
Even more dangerous is the interview on a non-contentious issue which suddenly veers off to a question on the forbidden subject. You are left with no alternative but to confess, live on air perhaps, that you are not allowed to discuss recent results, recent redundancies, top management changes, whatever it is. You sound weak, and interviewer and audience will be left wondering why someone of your standing is being effectively silenced.
There may be a third reason for wanting to avoid an interview; you simply don’t like the subject and feel it will be too uncomfortable or awkward. In that case, almost certainly you should do the interview. The media request means that there is something about your organisation that is interesting them. Even if you won’t talk to them, they will do the story anyway – but now without your input and almost certainly with a more negative slant.
Whatever the reason, whatever your doubts and fears, turning down an interview may not be the wisest decision.