As a business owner, who doesn’t love some good--and FREE--publicity? Many businesses strive to gain earned media (or free media) through promotional efforts other than paid media advertising or owned (branding) media. After spending hours on perfecting your press release pieces, researching media outlets, building your contact list and distributing your press release articles, then waiting and hoping that it gets picked up by a journalist, your phone finally rings and someone’s interested in publishing your story! Getting a media interview is both exciting and scary. Along with the opportunity to share your vision also comes the pressure to generate a glowing impression of your business.
If this is your first time interviewing for the press and you’re feeling nervous and anxious, you’re not alone. Even seasoned PR professionals may get the butterflies in front of the reporters. However, remember that you are always in control of your message, and with some preparation, you’ll feel much more at ease with the interview. Below are some pointers to help you ace that interview!
1. Prepare Yourself
When setting up the interview, make sure to obtain the reporter’s deadline, angle, and specific information needed. Or, at the very least, understand what the reporter is trying to get out of the interview. If you receive a call from the reporter, offer to call back rather than giving the interview on-the-spot without any preparation. The best way to do this is by saying, “I’m in a meeting. Please give me your number and I will call you back.”
Also, check that your facts are accurate. This is your opportunity to shine as a subject expert, whether it’s on the product and service that you offer, your company or your industry, so be sure to know what you’re talking about and don’t present assumptions as facts. In the age of internet and social media, people will notice inaccuracies in your statements. Be ready to answer additional questions that are off-topic, such as broad questions relating to your industry that may add value to the piece.
2. Make a plan
What’s your business objective? Always go into an interview knowing what goals you want to achieve and the points you want to make. To make your messages memorable, your objectives should be specific and action-oriented. Don’t default to generic agendas like “raising awareness” and “enhancing understanding”. Center your objectives around what you want the audience to do differently after reading/viewing your segment.
Take control of your messages by establishing two or three key points. Many people simply answer questions, which only help the journalists get what they want. It’s most important to get what you want, fulfill your business objectives, so make sure you always have your key points in mind when answering the questions. The best way to do this is by rounding your answers off with a benefit statement relating to your key points. Never leave your audience wondering about the “so what?”.
Take the initiative to ask the question you want to answer, when appropriate. Segue into the topic you want to discuss if the reporter hasn’t brought it up. You can do this by simply stating, "The more important issue is __." or "What really matters is ___."
3. Practice your delivery
Now that you’ve planned out your message to fit your business agenda, you need to practice its delivery to ensure that its perceptions are aligned with your intentions. Since reporters operate under strict timelines, it is important to be prompt and concise with your responses. Speak clearly and avoid too many filler words like “um” so your responses are communicated without distractions. As a general guideline, responses should begin with a less-than-ten-words answer, followed by a brief and relevant example, then conclude with a simple benefit statement. Remember the ABC rule: Answer the question; Bridge (example); Communicate your message (benefit).
If you don’t know the answer to a question, state so. Rather than saying “no comment”, which leaves the impression that you’re withholding information, it’s better to be forthcoming and explain why you’re unsure about something.
Finally, reporters love a good and memorable quote to make their story come alive, so prepare a couple of quotes that highlight the points you want to make to enhance the credibility and emotional factor of the interview. Incorporate key action words or descriptive metaphors to make the quotes memorable.
4. Be you
You know that you’ve done your homework and, most importantly, you’ve got a great story that you’re proud to share with the world, so be confident and enthusiastic when you speak. Show that you’re passionate about your brand, your organization, and your cause, but remember that you’re always “on-the-record” when talking to a journalist. Let your authentic self shine and have a natural conversation with the reporter. Try to avoid professional jargons so your content is accessible and easy to understand. Enjoy your moment under the spotlight and don’t forget to follow-up with a thank-you note and an offer to be available for any further questions or fact-checks if the journalist wishes.
Now that we’ve shared our tips, it’s time for you to go face the press and nail that interview! Need help with your press release? Check out our Custom PR package or send us a message!