Keep It Together! Media Relations Tips for Staying on Message
Media interviews are an important component to any public relations and marketing strategy. Being featured by print and digital media outlets or acting as an expert for broadcast and radio segments lends credibility and authority to your business. Your company can have any number of spokespeople and they should all be trained on proper media interview etiquette. These individuals also need to understand the importance of staying “on message” by highlighting your company’s unique value proposition, even when the conversation gets complicated.
Here are some tips to help your spokespeople prepare for their next media interview:
Know What They’re Getting Into
Get as much information about interview opportunity ahead of time as possible. Interested reporters are not likely to send you their specific questions beforehand, but will tell you the topic they are looking to cover and potentially a few stats or anecdotes they’ve heard that support their story. You should also get an understanding of how long the interview will likely take. 20 minutes? An hour? This will give you an idea as to how in-depth the interview will be and how much preparation you and your spokesperson will need.
Once you determine the specific topic for the interview, spend some time anticipating the questions the reporter will likely ask. Do a little digging to see what stories have been written about the topic or issue before. Is there anything missing? Brainstorm talking points that address how your company resolves this issue or advances what’s being done elsewhere and highlight what you do differently. This is also the time to determine the one key message you wish to convey above all else and identify potential questions that may come up where your spokesperson can weave that message into the conversation.
Beware of the Zingers
What questions do you HOPE won’t be asked, but probably will? Think of responses that can keep your spokesperson (and your company!) out of trouble without making the reporter feel like the question is being skirted. Determine ahead of time if there are questions your expert simply cannot answer and how that will be explained if they come up. The reporter may not be getting what they’re looking for, but it’s better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing.
Trust in the Preparation
During the interview, encourage your spokesperson to remain calm. It’s completely normal to feel nervous or jittery, especially if this is their first experience speaking with the media. Urge your expert to think before they speak, and provide intelligent responses without giving long-winded answers or going off on a tangent. The best interviewees stay focused on the topic at hand and provide thoughtful responses while listening for opportunities to plug in their company’s message. If nothing else, a spokesperson should use the question “Anything else to add?” as a chance to identify what makes their company unique or experts on the subject. Reporters almost always ask this question, so be sure to take advantage!
Once the interview is over, take some time with your spokesperson to discuss how it went. Were any of the questions a surprise? Did the reporter bring up something your expert wasn’t prepared to answer? Review the opportunities that allowed your company’s message to be brought to light. Identify areas in which the message would have been an appropriate response with the proper structure. Reflecting on the conversation after-the-fact will help your expert grow and become a better voice for your company in the future.
The main purpose of a media interview is to help a journalist with his or her story, so your company’s spokesperson should answer a journalist’s questions with all the expertise and authority they possess. Internally, however, a spokesperson’s objective must also be to highlight the uniqueness of your firm. Proper pre-interview preparation and mindfulness of key corporate messages can go a long way in helping your company stand out above the crowd.
Looking for more media relations tips? Download our free guide “Preparing for Broadcast Interviews.”