You send out your media pitch or press release thinking you’re not going to get any bites, and then all of a sudden you get a message from a journalist on deadline who wants to interview you about your announcement. You haven’t done many interviews in the past, so you cautiously respond that you’re available to talk but would prefer the questions via email if possible. When the reporter responds saying he has to conduct the interview over the phone, you agree but proceed with apprehension because you believe there are a variety of ways the reporter can spin your news or ask questions that you’re not comfortable answering. What to do?
This happens far too often with individuals and business owners that have little media interview expertise. They immediately take a defensive posture and look to get the interview over as fast as possible without saying the wrong thing. The problem with this type of attitude is that the process becomes more about simply surviving the interview than it is proactively using the opportunity to get your messages across and advance your agenda.
Following are some practical tips for not just surviving, but dominating your next interview (and every interview following):
- Create 3 – 5 key messages. Every time you do a phone interview, it’s critical to have messages prepared that you want to convey during the interview. In doing so, the idea is to shift the mind from defense to offense with the goal of hitting upon as many of these points as possible. You’ll want to weave them in organically, but it’s important to try to mention the most important messages more than once as reporters often times drown out the details they’re not as interested in. It’s your big opportunity to communicate your brand with targeted readers, so play offense and get your messages in!
- Have a few canned bridging statements in mind. Bridges are phrases that get you back to your messages when reporters try to pull you into uncomfortable territory. Politicians can’t go an hour without using these phrases, but they’re helpful in steering the interview back on course if it starts to leave the tracks. A few samples include:
- I don’t want to speculate, but what I can say is…
- I appreciate the question, but what’s important is that…
- It’s not something I’m comfortable answering right now, but I will say that…
- Do your due diligence. Don’t just get on the phone with someone without having read their most recent articles on the topic of discussion or their coverage on your industry as a whole. It’s always good to reference previous articles because it helps to build rapport with the journalist and sends the message that you read their content. A subtle reference during your conversation can go a long way in establishing the groundwork for a long- term relationship that includes ongoing interviews and coverage.
- Print out any supporting notes and data. Similar to your key messages, it’s always good to have any relevant supporting information to reference during the phone interview. Anything that makes you seem as knowledgeable and prepared as possible is fair game. Perhaps it’s industry data, a recent study, or even hand-written notes that support your key messages. You have a big opportunity to communicate to customers through the media. Be prepared and don’t wing it!
Successfully fielding interviews with the media is a skill that sharpens with each opportunity, but you can still be effective from the onset if you follow a few of these simple tips. Just know that the reason for implementing a publicity strategy should not be to see your name in the media, but to communicate in a way that advances your agenda and business goals. It’s that simple. You’ve got this!