You have not had any media training but suddenly a key media outlet is on the phone or at your office requesting an interview. Use the guidelines below to get you through an unexpected opportunity in a pinch.
1. Be professional at all times. Interviews are not conversations. Remember that reporters represent the public and will sometimes ask hard or even deliberately leading questions to elicit an emotional or sensational response from you. Be professional at all times; do not slip into a conversational mode.
2. Set the agenda on what you want to get across in an interview. Select a few key points and be certain to cover them regardless of what specific questions the reporter may ask.
3. Steer the interview in any direction you choose. If you are good at it, you can use a reporter’s questions to springboard to the area you want covered. This is legitimate technique for conveying your key messages.
4. Reporters are not necessarily experts. More often they are generalists. Don’t assume they will know anything, yet alone everything about your area of expertise. Provide them with good, concise background material prior to or after an interview.
5. Reporters come in all personality types. Don’t put them all in any one category – “friends” or “out to get a sensational story.” And don’t assume that the same reporter will always have the same approach.
6. There is no such thing as “off the record.” If you don’t want something to appear in print or on the air, do NOT say it.
7. Control your emotions. Before and during interviews: breathe deeply…take time to gather your thoughts…be serious when appropriate and animated when appropriate.
8. Do not answer a question that you don’t know how to answer. Tell the reporter you will get back to him/her as soon as possible. Call back as soon as possible with the requested information.
9. Tell the truth. If you don’t, your credibility is ruined. If you cannot absolutely divulge information, say so, and state why. Do NOT say “no comment”; it will appear that you are not being honest or withholding information.
10. When interviewing for a live TV segment, dress appropriately at all times. Your overall appearance reflects upon you and upon your business.
So you have done it! Proverbial success: you did your homework, picked the right journalist, sent a great pitch and now they have called you to set up an interview.
Now what? There are six key questions you should ask media every time to ensure you maximize every media interview and increase your potential to landing a story.
1. What is the focus of your story? In some instances a reporter may be looking for an expert resource on a broader trend story, while in others they may want to cover your company for a feature article. Find out right away the purpose for the interview so you or your company spokesperson is prepared to fill the proper role.
2. When is your deadline? Find out right away when the reporter needs to speak with you or your spokesperson and when they need to turn in their final story. Then, schedule an interview that gives you or your spokesperson time to plan.
3. Do you have any preliminary questions or interview guidelines you would like us to review before the interview? Many journalists have a very specific idea of the type of information they need during an interview. If they can provide questions or topic guidelines to review in advance of an interview, you can be prepared to provide the best information most likely to make it into the story. This can be particularly effective when journalists are looking for tech focused or in-depth information that may require you or your spokesperson to conduct some research. Also, this helps to ensure you can naturally weave your talking points into the interview.
4. Would you like photos or images to accompany the story? Whether it is a headshot, product or application photo or even a chart or graph that helps illustrates key data, journalists like to incorporate visuals that capture the reader’s attention and enhance the story.
5. What days and times are you available for an interview? Journalists often work on multiple stories with various deadlines at once. If you are scheduling an interview for someone other than yourself, determine a journalist’s availability before hanging up the phone.
6. What is the best method (phone, email, Twitter, etc.) for getting back in touch? If you are not conducting the interview, chances are you need to determine when your spokesperson is available. Once you do, you will need to get back in touch with the journalist quickly to confirm the details of the interview, and you cannot afford for your message to be missed.
Also, no matter who is conducting the interview, once the interview is completed, follow up with the journalist to determine if they require any additional information or a follow up interview.
Need help launching a publicity and media relations campaign? Contact me at Kayleigh (at) sweeneypr (dot) com.
How do you establish a spokesperson as an expert among media and bloggers?
By Jennifer Manocchio
This is a strategy we often use for clients to help increase brand awareness for a company or product, establish credibility and differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is a process and does take time.
The key to positioning a company spokesperson as an expert is to first identify what areas he or she is truly an expert in and identify what makes him or her an expert. For example, if he or she is an expert in the cleaning products industry, identify what specifically he or she can discuss about cleaning products. Can he or she discuss chemical make-up, cleaning tips for specific surfaces, marketing, packaging or distribution?
Additionally, be sure to provide solid credentials to support your spokesperson as an expert. This can include how many years he or she worked in the industry, education, accreditations, training, workshops/presentations he or she conducted and past media who have used him or her as a resource.
Second, create a biography using the information you have gathered that identifies why your spokesperson is an expert and what makes him or her an expert. Third, let key gatekeepers like influential media and bloggers know he or she is an expert by sending them the biography.
But it doesn’t stop there. It is imperative to continue providing the media and bloggers with relevant information for their audience related to your spokesperson’s expertise. This can be accomplished a number of ways, including contacting media and bloggers with your expert’s opinion on recent news or events, sending media and bloggers tips or industry trends your expert identifies or comments on, and responding to media and blogger resources like ProfNet, HARO and PitchRate when your expert can be a resource. You can also schedule interviews with media and bloggers when your expert is attending industry shows/events, but be sure to give the media and bloggers a reason why your expert is worth their time. This is where dedication and continuous communication with the media and bloggers will pay off.
The most exciting aspect about establishing your spokesperson as an expert is the more exposure he or she receives, the more credibility he or she gains and the easier it becomes!
Have questions or want to learn more about establishing your spokesperson as an expert? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
What can/should PR leaders/communication professionals do when their “go-to” spokesperson is a dud? It could be the CEO or a leading expert in a particular field. It could be someone who, politically, just has to be the one.
Reporter, health care marketing magazine
By Jim Sweeney & Jennifer Manocchio
Let’s start first by defining what a “dud” is for each type of media. If we are talking about print media, then content is king and only the information can be a dud, so messaging and the ability to convey it successfully (especially in phone interview situations) are critical.
If we are talking radio, then voice is critical (strong, confident, sincere) along with the message. For TV, we add a whole other dimension. Let’s face it; these are all entertainment media, but none more so than TV. So our spokesperson must look attractive in some way, must have nerves of steel or natural on-camera speaking ability and must say all the right things (messaging). Before the Nixon-Kennedy debates, no one really cared what our corporate or political leaders looked like. Since the debates, that’s all we care about.
Messaging, delivery, personality, appearance (in that order) are important for spokespersons. We can work on the first two, but the last two are out of our control… other than to replace the dud with better looking, more adept speakers.
If you feel a spokesperson will improve by conducting training on messaging and delivery, consider conducting media training that includes interviewing and videotaping the individual. Also, consider incorporating a second spokesperson or potential spokesperson who is stronger in areas your current spokesperson is lacking.
We have actually experienced this challenge with a client who had one spokesperson that fell flat with delivery and another who had challenges staying on point. It was an excellent strategy to have both these individuals watch and learn from each other, and actually see themselves and each other on television when we played back their mock interviews. We were able to achieve a balance between the two that wouldn’t have been accomplished if they had not conducted the training together or seen themselves on television.
If your spokesperson doesn’t improve with training or is not willing to step aside for the better of the organization, it is completely acceptable for an organization to have more than one spokesperson. You can often find experts within an organization who can address different topics with the media. One way to accomplish this is to develop a matrix of experts in your organization, interview/screen these experts and train them so you don’t end up with another ineffective spokesperson.
Have a marketing, public relations, social media or advertising question? Post your question below or email exeqnation at gmail dot com. We are committed to answering your marketing questions real time. And if we don’t know the answer, we’ll contact one of our valued partners who will.