What to do when the media come knocking

The telephone rings. It’s a local reporter asking for some of your time to conduct an interview. What do you do? Run for the hills? Of course not! If you’re my client, you’ve been media trained. You take a deep breath and tackle the interview in a responsive, professional manner. Media interviews can play a major role in your business success and are an important aspect of an overall public relations program. I’ve seen CEOs bomb interviews because they were not adequately prepared. Here’s a quick review of media interview do’s and don’ts.

Interview DOs:

  • Prepare 3-4 key messages, stick to them, and repeat them.
  • Keep your answers brief. Answer a question in a few seconds and then stop.
  • Remember to speak to the media outlet’s audience. When speaking to a general audience, keep your language simple and straightforward.
  • Use “sound-bytes”—short, catchy quotes that are memorable and get your point across.
  • Anticipate difficult questions and controversy.
  • Use examples to bring the story out and illustrate your point.
  • Remember that everything you say is on the record.

Interview DON’Ts:

  • Go into an interview unprepared.
  • Stray from your message or your areas of expertise. Whenever that happens, yank it back to where you want it to be by remembering to focus on the key points you want to convey.
  • Repeat negatives. Bridge back to your key messages.
  • Answer “no comment” – the reporter will think you have something to hide and will keep asking tough questions.
  • Speculate or feel pressured to answer immediately. Say “I will get back to you with that information.”
  • Avoid tough questions. Provide a brief answer and transitioning to a positive statement or company key message.

When the interview is over, be gracious and say “thank you”.  Even if you don’t like the behavior of the interviewer, hide your personal feelings behind your professional demeanor. These are just a few helpful tips.  A comprehensive media training session is a must if you have never been media trained! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to schedule a session.