Making your media interview a win-win
By Jessica M. Pasko, Director
You’ve got an interview with a reporter at a top publication and now you’re ready to tell them all about your company and they’ll write a glowing article. It’s that simple, right?
Not exactly. To get what you want out of an interview, you have to understand what the reporter wants and what they need to succeed. Finding that intersection is essential for positive media coverage. It also helps build lasting relationships with reporters. This is where your public relations team can bring expertise.
Setting the expectations
There’s a difference between your company and a reporter’s agenda during an interview. A reporter’s job isn’t to just make the interviewee feel good; they want to tell an important story that matters to their readers and is interesting. They want facts, opinions, good quotes and oftentimes, a little controversy to make the story sizzle. On the flipside, as the interview subject, your objectives are to deliver your company’s news and messages in a way that positions the organization as an industry leader. By aligning these agendas, you have a win-win: The journalist gets a good story and your company gets positive, on-message visibility.
Knowing what to avoid
In the rules of the road of press engagement, there are some universal things to keep in mind – including basic manners, punctuality and respect. When I worked as a journalist, I once interviewed a prestigious executive over lunch. Not only did she talk with her mouth full between bites of food, but she also had table manners that left something to be desired. I generally advise clients against lunch interviews – coffee is a better choice. Otherwise, it distracts from what you want to convey. For instance, I don’t necessarily recall what the executive said during that interview, but I’ll always remember her eating habits. The point is: you don’t want these types of gaffes to detract from, or worse, become the story.
That’s an extreme example, but there are plenty of other factors that can lead to an ineffective interview and many are fairly common. These include not telling a good story, being flat out boring, not letting the reporter get a word in edgewise and being condescending.
Creating a win-win situation
Reporters expect that you will answer the questions they ask or be able to provide a good reason why you can’t. They expect you’ll provide information and a compelling story. They want to hear something interesting that speaks to the broader picture rather than just promotion of a specific company, product or accomplishment. With preparation, there are several ways a spokesperson can accomplish this:
- Create a Two–Way Dialogue: This goes back to my earlier point – don’t launch into a monologue. An interview should be a conversation, a two-way street. If you never pause to let the other person speak, how can they ask you questions? This also allows them to clarify any points they may not understand, which ultimately leads to a better, more accurate article.
- Build a Narrative: A spokesperson plays a crucial role in defining the story and in helping it be told in the right way. To help the journalist engage with an organization’s values, vision, strategy and beliefs, prepare to outline a coherent strategic narrative.
- Focus on Key Messages: Every interview needs to have at most four key messages. The reporter shouldn’t have to search for them. Instead make sure they’re delivered at the beginning, middle and end of the interview. Repetition of your messages is essential.
A stellar piece of coverage is based on a successful interview. This requires your executives and other spokespeople to deliver company news and messages in a way that meets the storytelling needs of the reporter. That’s why media training is key! It provides insight on how to position the story you want to tell. Consider the best practices above as you prepare for interviews and you’ll be well on your way to achieving positive, on–message coverage.
Ready to make headlines and get quoted? Reach out to learn more about how we can help.