Don’t be caught unprepared if a journalist calls your office requesting an interview. Preparation is the difference between good publicity and bad publicity. Here are some simple things you can do to maximise the outcomes of a media interview.
When used effectively, the media can help to promote your product or service, your company and yourself. It is also a way of increasing brand awareness for your current and potential customers.
If a journalist calls your office, take the details and set-up a time for the interview. You should confirm their name, their media outlet, specific details of their enquiry, whether they are interviewing anyone else, their deadline and their contact details.
PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE
So you’ve made a time for the interview and now you need to work out what you’re going to say. Make sure you’re clear on the topic of the interview. Sometimes a journalist will use the opportunity to ask you about something that’s not related – for example, is there a current news story that they would like you to comment about?
What matters most in any media interview is that you are successful in communicating your key messages. What are the three most important messages that you want the journalist to take away from this interview? Use interesting facts, latest statistics and strong opinions in your key messages – these things will help to capture the journalist’s attention. Always bring the discussion back to your key messages; the more you say them, the more likely they will appear in the journalist’s story. Keep your messages simple and credible and write them on the back of a business card for quick reference.
It’s also a good idea to spend some time thinking about the questions the journalist might ask you. Write a list of potential questions and ask a colleague to help you rehearse for the interview. Another option is to contact a public relations agency that offers media training services. In these training sessions, mock interviews can be conducted with real journalists and television crews.
If the interview is conducted over the telephone, you can have the information you need on your desk or computer. But don’t put too much information in front of you – you don’t want to be searching through paperwork while you’re on the phone. Most importantly, make sure you have your key messages handy.
For face-to-face interviews, read over your key messages before the interview. Think about information that you could provide as a handout to the journalist and conduct interviews in your boardroom, not your personal office. Boardrooms are generally cleaner, neater and private compared to offices.
During the interview avoid jargon and technical terms, unless you’re speaking to a specific industry publication.
And never say ‘no comment’ – that can appear like you’re trying to hide something. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to say, “Can I get back to you with the answer to that question?” Remember that while you’re the expert, you don’t have to know it all.
After the interview, ask the journalist when they expect the story to be published. It’s a great idea to keep copies of media stories – they can be useful for third party endorsements or to simply frame and hang on the office wall.
Finally, remember that everything is “on the record” when you’re talking to a journalist. No matter what they say, you should only reveal information that you are happy to see in the public domain.
Renee Hancock is a marketing and communications specialist, whose experience spans finance, government, education, not-for-profit, telecommunications and law. She has consulted for two of Australia’s most prestigious public relations agencies and now works in-house for a leading financial services organisation.