Maybe a reporter wants to come on to your farm and interview you, take photos or put you on TV?

Don’t think you have to, or are in some way obliged to, appear in a magazine or newspaper or on TV. It’s your choice and make sure you keep it your choice. Don’t get pressured or bullied or intimidated.

Although, there are lots of rewards if you do. Becoming known as an expert, or as having a good reputation as a farmer, can open doors for your business. You may make new contacts, be asked to speak at events or even get a smile from your bank manager.

However, knowing a few rules before you venture into the public world will make it safer for you, your family and your business.

If the question is not relevant to your farming business (beef cattle instead of dairy), tell them so. Don’t try to be an expert on things you are not.

First, find out what type of journalist wants to talk to you. Are they from a daily newspaper or website so have a deadline in the next few hours? Or is it a magazine reporter who has several weeks to get the story done?

The speed of your response is important to them but don’t make them rush you into a comment you need to think about.

Tell them you will email it back to them and say when you will do it and make sure this is acceptable.

This gives you time to think so your answer is not some off-the-cuff comment you will later regret.

It also means you have a copy of what you said in writing so there are no worries the journalist misheard you over the noise of the tractor when they called.

If you follow up as you said you would, you could become their go-to person.

But if the question is not relevant to your farming business (beef cattle instead of dairy), tell them so. Don’t try to be an expert on things you are not.

If they want to come onfarm and interview you, set a date and time and a place to meet them – either the house or the dairy. Ask if photos will be taken and if they are, think of a few places which would look good before the journalist arrives.

Have your nicest-looking cows close to the house or dairy, a clean shirt or overalls on and if you are wearing a cap or sunglasses expect to be asked to take them off. Photos look best when you can see the person’s eyes.

Don’t let a photo be taken of something you don’t want. If the photographer is not the reporter, don’t let the photographer wander off on their own while the interview is being done.

For starters it’s not great for health and safety and you have no control of what photos are being taken.

Photos stay around in newspaper or magazine libraries for years, same with TV footage.

During the interview don’t say anything you don’t want to appear in print. You may feel like it is a conversation you are having but it’s not. Everything you say can appear in the story or influence the direction the story takes.

Don’t criticise anyone else or complain or joke unless you want that going in the story.

Don’t say something and then add “that’s not for print” or “between you and me” or “don’t write this down”.

The journalist only wants to hear what they can write down so don’t offer information and then take it away.

If the journalist is not following what you are saying then check that they understand it.

Farming is a complicated business and most reporters have no idea about BW, how to plant winter crop or what fertiliser you put on. Very few will have ever milked a cow.

I once had a city newspaper reporter write me a note during a regional council meeting which was discussing effluent on roads in winter asking me what Gypsy Day was.

Make sure you spell names correctly and give accurate information. Have it ready before they come.

And if they are not on a tight deadline, ask to see the story (get it emailed to you) before it goes in the newspaper or magazine.

There is no law that says they must do this so appreciate the opportunity.

And it’s a win-win for both. Once something appears in pint it is very hard to change it and journalists hate getting things wrong.

But when you are reading the story that has been written about you, only change the facts – don’t, whatever you do, rewrite the story.

Journalists write in a particular style. Each newspaper and magazine has its own style book and it’s usually pretty big and has everything in it from the difference between a boat and a ship, how to write percentages and that kiwi the bird doesn’t have a capital letter but if referring to a person it’s a Kiwi.

So don’t change this stuff or the opening paragraph or any of the sentence structure.

They didn’t tell you how to milk your cows so don’t tell them how to write a story. They’re good at it. It’s what they’ve been employed to do. Let them do it.

Just change the facts. If someone’s name is spelt wrong then fix it, if something is not right, fix it, if you forgot to say something that is important, add it in.

If you really don’t want the world knowing something, then take it out and tell yourself off for telling the reporter in the first place.

Our industry, just like any other, uses lots of jargon and some reporters may be ringing you just to understand something. You may become their go-to person when they need to understand Overseer or how farmers use DairyBase.

If this happens clarify first with them that your comments will not go into print – that this conversation is for background only.

The surefire way to know it isn’t, is when they ask how to spell your name and what your role is.

They will only be doing this for one reason and it won’t be because they want your name and number in their phone correctly.

Remember too that all journalists are looking for a story, an angle, a way to tell something.

In newsrooms with websites it’s affectionately called click-bait. We all know it – the sensational headline that makes you want to read the story.

News websites have background software which monitors what stories are read and for how long so they know what attracts readers to the site.

Some of the more cynical journalists don’t call it click-bait. They call it content readers appreciate, or CRAP for short.

Be careful also of that minefield that is social media – especially Facebook and Twitter. If you post or comment, remember it can be shared by anyone, and ultimately commented on by everyone.

People you do not know are suddenly ridiculing you, telling you what you said is not true and how dare you even say it in the first place.

There is no rule that says you must engage in social media of any type. Just because everyone else seems to be doing it, that doesn’t mean you have to as well.

But if you do, find other farmers who are putting themselves out there successfully and learn from them.

Try to ignore the haters – don’t go into battle with them. And keep it civil. Just because you can, that doesn’t mean you should slag off, swear or be rude.

If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it in the media.