Media Relations: Winning Interviews
By Roxanne Leone, Director Marketing & Communications
Interviews are the basic tool of gathering news and insights. Journalists must rely on spokespeople like you for newsworthy information and insights. A news interview, regardless of how casual it may be, is much like a formal negotiation, during which the journalist represents the public and your responses or comments are directed through the journalist to the public.
The journalist wants a compelling story, on his terms to meet the needs of his readers. The journalist isn’t interested in anything but news.
Your role is to think like a journalist and control the interview – keeping answers short, factual and personable.
Preparing for an Interview
- Do your homework. It is challenging to remember everything about various activities within the company when you’re under pressure during the interview. Homework may include a refresh on key messages, statistical data as well as recent reading articles authored by the journalist.
- Anticipate Q and A’s. Your knowledge of your organization, strategies and products or services is important but the publicity you get isn’t always about your solution but about general insights, trends or a preexisting news story.
- Prepare a set of objectives. Rather than simply responding to questions, your most important assignment in the interview must be to ensure that the things you want to communicate through the journalist are focused and captured during the interview.
What to do When you Meet with Journalists
There are several things you should do when you are introduced to a journalist. Consider these tips:
- From the beginning, you should steer the journalist in the direction of your objectives and keep track of your key messages during the interview. Since you are more educated about your business than he is, he will gladly listen for informal guidance about the nature of the story. If you’re led in another direction, utilize these transition phrases to get back on topic.
- Attempt to gain some common ground on a personal basis with the journalist. Continue to utilize your personality and share stories to help build credibility and come across as a thought leader.
- Journalists are skeptical people looking for an emotional response. If there is emotion around a certain response, they will grade that higher than the responses which are unemotional. Positive emotion may be a tremendous force in winning interviews.
Winning the Interview
You are not at the journalist’s mercy. All you must do is execute your game plan.
- Place your most important points at the beginning of each response where they will be clear and isolated.
- Journalists want colorful language, not dry technological jargon. The more informal, the better. If an answer must be technical to be accurate, provide an appropriate analogy.
- The most important point is to listen carefully. You must understand the question before you begin to answer it. If you need additional time to craft your response, repeat the question.
According to a PR News Media Training Guidebook, they reiterate the importance of newsworthiness. If you feel your story is newsworthy ensure it will influence the masses, be interesting and contain unique or never-been-done before components. For the latest PR News Guidebook click here, it not only provides tips for interview preparation but offers information on journalist relations, crisis management, influencer relations, social media and more!
For additional guidance on media interviews or the importance of media training, review our blog, “Did I Say THAT? Three Reasons Why Executives Need Media Training.”