Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Sending a press release often results in an interview with a journalist - but are you prepared for what happens next?  Here are some tips to make sure your media interview goes smoothly and without regret.

1. Ask the journalist if she or he has a particular angle - and it's ok to ask if anyone else is commenting, too.  But do not assume you should get an answer, it's highly dependent on the sensitivity of the story. Most journalists will give you some indication of where they are taking the story – but sometimes you will be able to drive the story if you have interesting ideas.

2. Will it be a business story focused on facts and figures, or a more personal profile? The journalist has a right to publish an opinion but you can help control the messages by preparing the words in advance.  Each one of them may be quoted, so be elegantly simple in your responses so you sound elegant in print. On TV and radio, it's even more important to prepare well so that you provide short, not belaboured, sound bytes.

3. If the journalist wants to arrange a photographer, this is good news as it nearly always means the story will run. Ask if there are any guidelines you should be aware of. Wear bright, solid colours, they’re more eye-catching. Don’t get too busy though, too many accessories or patterns can be distracting.

4. Don't leave things to chance or you'll live to regret it! Think about the questions you'll be asked and prepare short,  interesting answers

5.  Be prepared to answer basic questions about your business - it stands to reason you'll be asked things like:

  • What does your business do?
  • Who and where are your customers?
  • What do they pay for your product/service?
  • What is your revenue?  Unless you are a public company, it’s your right to keep this information private.  But even if you don’t state your revenue, beware of the way you refer to your numbers. You may be asked several different questions around the topic – eg, a calculation of how many customers you have X the cost of your service may lead the journalist to an entirely incorrect estimate of your revenue.
  • What are your growth prospects?

6. Likewise, it should come as no surprise that you’ll be asked questions directly  related to your press release.  The journalist  may paraphrase from your interview and combine these words with your Press Release.

7.  Don't just answer the questions – build excitement and add the wow! factor – big numbers, well-known names, new trends. Include any story or case study that makes the journalist say 'I didn’t know that’. Back up your claims with research, examples and short case studies.

8.  Nail the pitch -- you should also be able to quickly say in one commanding sentence the core value of your business to your customers.  It’s a bit like an elevator pitch, so feel free to use words you’ve prepared earlier. Your words should leave no doubt and contain no jargon.

9.  Rehearse with a colleague - in person and over the phone A lot of interviews are conducted over the phone these days, which gives you the opportunity to have potential answers jotted down in front of you. Face-to-face interviews are a bit more demanding.  Have your colleague ask the typical and not so typical questions - especially the questions you don’t want to be asked! 10. As a wise person once reminded me, leave the journalist with 3 messages – “Focus on 3 points and say it in 3 different ways….