PR(o) Tips on Acing That Media Interview

Entrepreneurs, Events, Public Relations, Social Media Posted Feb 18, 2020 by Shannon Kelley

Good media stories generate visibility, build credibility and establish a reputation for an individual, brand or company. But to earn that coverage, company spokespeople are inevitably faced with the task of acing their interviews with the journalists writing the stories. While celebrities prepare for their interviews and speeches during awards season at the Golden Globes, Grammys, Academy Awards and Emmys, our clients prepare in the same way for industry conferences and galas such as RSA Conference and the SC Awards. It’s important for company executives to be prepared for interactions at these events and to know their respective storylines so that they can effectively communicate to the media.

Preparing for interviews and interactions can be daunting, and if a spokesperson isn’t prepared for the questions that may come, it could potentially be damaging to that individual’s – and the company’s – reputation. As PR professionals, we want to help. Below are some “Do’s and Don’ts” to follow for interview preparation and some things to expect from the media.

Do Your Homework.

First, familiarize yourself with the reporter and the news outlet. Know what the publication covers, what the reporter writes about, and what his/her style and tendencies are, because your story will likely tie into their narrative. Don’t be afraid to ask your PR professional what type of story the journalist is looking to write, and what kind of insight they are looking to gain from the discussion. This will significantly help you prepare the messages you bring to the conversation and help avoid any surprises or unanticipated talking points.

Do Prepare Your Storyline and Key Messages.

Memorable articles come from interviews with individuals or companies that share unique and critical insight to current events and trends. Think about what you want to gain from the interview and what hot industry topics you can introduce into the conversation. Maybe it’s that you have a product or service that can solve a pressing problem; make note to bring that up with the reporter in a way that helps them tell their story. Some interviews can stray from the direction you would like. If this happens, you can always fall back on your brand and company messaging.

Do Bring Up the Questions and Topics You Want to Answer.

If a reporter doesn’t bring up a topic or question you were hoping to discuss, feel free to segue into that area if it has relevance to the conversation at hand. For example, you can accomplish this by saying “what we believe matters is…” or “something else to consider is…”. This lets the reporter know you’re offering valuable information to be considered for their piece while still being respectful of their questions. Being proactive can help you stand out while getting your insight across in a professional way.

Don’t Talk Negatively About Competition.

Speaking ill of competitors can be tempting, but doing so reflects poorly on your and your company’s reputation, and can even give free press to the competition. It’s important to stay on track with what is being asked of you and your organization. Explain your vision and mission and how you can deliver products or services at a higher quality to better meet customer needs and demands.

Don’t Forget the Power of Good Body Language and Tone.

The way you present yourself in person can carry a larger message than what you vocalize. A pioneer researcher of body language in the 1950s, Albert Mehrabian, found that the total impact of a message is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent nonverbal. Taking a moment to listen to their question and another to really let it sink in before answering can show thoughtfulness, while giving eye contact can demonstrate respect. Mirroring the reporter’s body language can make you appear more personable and open to conversation, while avoiding fidgeting will communicate more honesty and confidence.

Don’t Say Anything You Wouldn’t Want to See in a Story.

Last, and most importantly, be mindful that anything you say during an interview is fair game for a reporter to use in a story. As such, the cardinal rule we always advise our clients to adhere to is: don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see, read or hear in the media.

While your PR agency will typically go through these “Do’s and Don’ts” with you prior to each interview, it’s important to remember them to ensure greater success. Earned media is one of the best ways to gain traction for you and your company, and to get coverage on what it is you do. Following these tips can help you get your message across and covered in a timely and effective manner.