Be prepared! 5 essential tips for making the most of your media interviews

Whether you’re a Girl Guide, Cub Scout, director of a start-up or a CEO of a large corporation, ‘Be prepared’ is a useful motto to follow when faced with life’s challenges.

Getting the most out of media interviews may be one such challenge for many businesses wishing to raise their profile.

We provide five useful tips and highlight some important points to consider before talking to the press.

So you have news to tell the world, a great story or an exciting announcement and you think you’re ready to tell the media. Hold on a second! Remember your Boy Scout motto. Before you approach Ducks Unlimited Magazine with your story, make sure you first have them in a row.

1. Do your research

Knowing a lot about your chosen publication and a little about the journalist will immediately earn you brownie points with any editor. It’s worth spending a little bit of time identifying regular features and sections of a magazine or website and working out where and how your story might fit. Look at recently published articles and try and get a feel for the reporter’s writing style, subject knowledge and bias, if they have one.

2. Newsworthy or ‘snoozeworthy’?

Are you offering an opinion piece, a thought leadership article, a technical case study or news? Has this topic already been covered in a recent issue? If so, how can you move the story on? Are you willing to stick your head above the parapet and say something new or controversial? Is there a human-interest angle? Ask yourself these questions to reassure yourself that your announcement isn’t just a knee-jerk statement from the board or senior management, but something readers or listeners will actively engage with and find interesting.

If you’re convinced that your latest widget is ‘truly ground breaking’, ‘unique’ or represents a ‘world first’ you should be prepared to back this up with some solid evidence. Failure to do so will inevitably result in your superlatives receiving short shrift.

3. Timing is everything

As you make your way to the rooftops to shout about your news, pause for a brief moment. Find out if there are any other significant announcements scheduled. Your news could be overshadowed by something far more important. Alternatively, there may be a ‘news-jacking’ opportunity in the offing.

4.  Manage the message

You’re almost there. Now it’s time to sit down with a colleague or your PR team and draft a Q&A. Don’t be afraid to ask some difficult questions here. This gives you the chance to rehearse answers to questions that an inquisitive journalist may ask. Despite a common misconception about media interviews, not all journalists have a hidden agenda. In fact, most are just looking for a good story that will appeal to their readers. So this is a golden opportunity to give them one.

Once you’ve honed three or four key messages, practice them, practice them again, and then once more. Stick to your messages but try and avoid being too rigid or prescriptive.

Learning how to take control of an interview, or redirect it using the bridging technique is particularly useful in situations where you feel the interview is going off track and your messages aren’t getting across.

5. Media training

With your ducks neatly lined up you’re now ready to… wait for it… undergo some professional media training. Why? Because, this should be an essential part of your preparation. Remember, the media doesn’t work for you. They are not an extension of your marketing department so don’t be surprised when your carefully rehearsed script doesn’t appear word for word. That’s advertising. Third-party endorsement from an independent source, such as a journalist, is one of the most effective ways to raise your profile. So, it’s worth ensuring you get the most out of any interview and learn how to manage the process effectively.

Before you pick up the phone or sit down with a journalist make sure you’ve done your homework. Avoid getting carried away in the moment. In your eagerness to tell the world about your ingenious new product or amazing service, these guiding principles can easily be forgotten.

If you’d like to know more about how to improve your company’s reputation with the media, or how to get the most from media interviews, contact us here.

(Credits: Guy Clapperton: ‘Hacked About’)