MAKE THE MOST OF MEDIA INTERVIEWS
A local newspaper reporter calls and wants to interview you for an article she's writing. How do you make the most of this interview? By knowing a few facts and following a few procedures, you'll feel more confident when media opportunities arise for you and your organization.
- Be prepared
Assign a media spokesperson. All employees should know how to handle any inquiries from the media. Inquiries should be deemed a priority and handled immediately. Employees who are contacted by the media, including receptionists and those who answer the phone, should be trained and know where to direct the inquiry.
Another way to prepare is to make sure the spokesperson from your organization has key messages developed and ready to use. Consider all the tough questions that may be asked and develop answers for them. Also, know who to turn to for assistance. For example, for more information about pesticides and issues surrounding their use, you can contact RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) or visit www.pestfacts.org.
- Ask questions
Media interviews aren't one-sided.
What is the topic?
What are you looking for?
What kind of news story — newspaper, radio, TV?
Who else will you be interviewing for this story?
Why did you choose me?
When will the story appear?
And most importantly: When is your deadline?
After finding out when a reporter's deadline is, tell them you will call them back. Do not grant the interview right then and there. If the reporter is persistent, say you have something you must finish and promise to get back to him or her to meet their deadline. Then take time to think through what you will say and if there are any resources you should use to gather information for the interview. Always call the reporter back within the timeframe stated to meet his or her deadline.
- Answer questions clearly, concisely and confidently
There are three basic responses to all questions: 1) the complete answer; 2) “I don't know but I will find out and get right back to you;” or 3) “I know but I can't say because…” No comment is not an acceptable response. A few other important things to remember:
When speaking to reporters, you are really speaking to their audience. Always consider, “What's in it for them?”
There is no such thing as “off-the-record.”
Don't be defensive.
Use analogies and stories whenever possible.
Don't expect a reporter to allow you to edit, approve or see the story prior to it being published or aired.
- Smile and have fun!
A media interview and resulting story gives you a chance to inform the public and your customers. It's free advertising for you and your organization. Even if the topic is a controversial issue, you can prepare and present yourself in a positive, straightforward manner.
This is only a brief summary of the “how-to's” of media interviews. For more information, surf the Web for information about media interviews or consider consulting a public relations professional who can assist you with message development and media relations.
Angela Bendorf Jamison is president of Communicopia, a marketing communications agency, and serves as communications specialist for RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment). Reach her at angela@communicopiaPR.com.
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