When the Media Calls: 10 Things You Need to Know
You just received a request for an interview. That means you are probably either elated, terrified or maybe a little bit of both. You deserve to be excited, getting media attention is hard work. But we have all heard PR horror stories; no one wants to find themselves in the middle of an interview going wrong.
Here are ten tips for handling media interviews that can help you make the most of your publicity opportunity.
1) Take a Minute
Do not give an interview on the spot. Find out what the reporter wants and decide if you are the best person to handle it. If you are, determine the deadline, and the reporter’s focus. Then offer to call back once you have more time to talk. There is nothing wrong with collecting your thoughts. It is your job to present yourself and your organization in a calm, confident manner. Never wing an interview—take time to prepare.
2) Do Your Homework
Ask yourself some questions: What is your purpose for doing this interview? What is it you hope to gain? Research the media outlet you are interviewing with as well as the reporter. Familiarize yourself with the type of stories they typically do and how the reporter or journalist interviews. Check in with your corporate team to be sure there is nothing happening that can catch you by surprise.
3) Know Your Talking Points
Once you know your goal for doing the interview, decide on your three main talking points. You should know these inside and out and be prepared to mention them early and often. Also prepare facts, stats or anecdotes to support your points. Be sure to avoid jargon, acronyms and overly technical language that can leave your audience feeling confused or left out of the conversation.
4) Practice…Out Loud
Knowing your message and speaking it are two different things. You need to articulate your message points as concisely as possible—think elevator pitch. Also, when you are nervous, your breathing gets shallow and your voice can sound uncertain. Practicing out loud can help you control this. It is also a good idea to videotape yourself so you can hear how you sound, catch excessive use of “uh” or “um” and see any mannerisms that might be distracting for an on-camera interview.
5) No Comment is No Good
If you do not know an answer, then do not answer that question. Avoid speculating—it will get you into trouble, and saying, “no comment” makes you appear suspicious. Let the interviewer know that you will have to look into that topic and get back with him or her. Also do not answer questions that you are not permitted to answer because of laws or corporate rules. You can move away from what you can’t answer to what you can with a technique call “bridging.”
Bridging allows you to avoid troublesome questions while offering the reporter something useful and safe. For example, you might say something like, “Because of privacy laws I can’t answer that question. But what I can tell you is…”
6) Do Not Repeat Negative Questions
If a reporter asks you something in a negative way, do not repeat the question back verbatim. This will anchor that unflattering message in the mind of your audience. Rephrasing the question in a more positive light is perfectly acceptable.
7) Watch Your Body Language
I have a notoriously bad poker face. If a thought crosses my mind, it usually turns up on my face as well. Once, an investigative reporter showed up during my first year as the producer of an international trade show under the guise of talking about the exhibitors. After a few throw-away questions, he started grilling me regarding the credibility of our parent company. When it dawned on me what he was actually after, my irritation registered on my face as a smirk. That was a big no-no! Guess which clip got edited out of context and used to make our company look less than flattering?
If your interview is going to be on camera, you need to watch your body language. Pay attention to what you do with your hands. Consider your posture, you want to appear open and forthcoming, not defensive. And as my own story indicates—facial expressions matter.
8) Curveballs and Homeruns
When prepping for an interview, always consider two questions: the one you are praying they do not ask and the one you are praying that they do. You never want a question to catch you off guard. It is much better to practice for the uncomfortable question, then to be stammering in front of a journalist. On the flipside, it is also a great idea to be ready for the softball questions—if you are lucky enough to get one—then you better be ready to knock it out of the park.
9) Control the Pause
When you are done delivering your message, stop talking. If the silence gets uncomfortable, so be it. Often, reporters intentionally create an awkward pause during an interview. They know that people pleasers feel compelled to fill the void and end up saying much more than they should. Blathering can get you into trouble. If you cannot take the silence, ask if your interviewer has any other questions.
10) Maximize Your Interview
Be sure to take full advantage of this wonderful PR opportunity. Post your interview on your website. Share it, or links to it, on your various social media platforms. Use it with prospective clients. Also be sure to thank your interviewer and offer to help with any follow-up information. Being gracious and helpful to the media can go a long way. You never know when you might be seeking media attention again.
If you are interested in Public Relations strategy or consultation, Infinity Concepts is here to help.
Reach out to DARRELL LAW, our Chief Growth Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact us today at 724.733.1200 X26.