Do you work for a non-profit or neighborhood advocacy group? Run a large corporation? Operate your own business? At some point, in addition to your own social media channels, you’ll want traditional press coverage, or the media may contact you. When that happens, what do you do? (Hint: “panic” is not the correct answer!) You welcome the opportunity to use their channels to also get out your message.
What’s your message?
Every organization, whether it’s a neighborhood advocacy group or a Fortune 500 corporation, has a message – the reason it exists and operates the way it does. It’s important to know that message and be able to articulate it clearly, with examples, facts, and stories to back it up. No matter what the actual topic of the interview, your message is the underpinning of everything you say. Make sure you know how to state it convincingly and succinctly.
Get it across
Always knowing your message helps you get back to it no matter what you’re asked. So if the question is “won’t bringing a halfway house into the community make it less safe, and hurt real estate values?” the first part of your answer could be “We understand the concerns and will work hard to be good neighbors.” The second part of your answer is your message: “But studies show the way to help former inmates be productive members of society is to bring them into a positive environment, surrounded by better role models.” Then, give a fact or story to support your message.
After most interviews, the reporter will ask if you want to add anything else. Never say no! It’s your chance to once again get your message across.
When talking to a print reporter or blogger, either in person or on the phone, assume everything you say is “on the record.” If it’s over the phone, ask if you’re being recorded. To ensure you’ll be quoted properly, tape your end of the conversation and let the reporter know you’re doing so. Offer to provide other materials for the story.
Find out if the interview will be live or taped. If it’s live, you need to be highly prepared. Usually this requires some coaching with a media trainer or the PR staff where you work. The shorter your time on camera, the more preparation needed. Know your messages and make sure you smile!
For in-studio interviews clothing should be on the tailored side to give you credibility in relation to the on-camera host. Women should wear jackets with shoulder pads. Men should avoid button-down collars, as they tend to add extra shadows. Spread collars put the focus on your face. No wild patterns, stripes, or sharp color contrasts that distort the camera picture. Women should wear lipstick and everyone needs face powder, especially men with extra high foreheads.
Don’t move anything! You may think your chair is too close to the host. It probably is for social situations, but on camera it looks just right. If you have a book or other item you’ll be discussing, show it to the producer in advance in case they want close-up shots. If you hold it up on camera, bring it near your face so it can be seen.
Find out if you’re going to be live or taped. If taped, you can repeat something if it doesn’t come out right. If it’s live, repeat the word correctly and just keep going.
To sound your best (if you’re not in the studio), use a land-line telephone instead of a cordless or cell phone. Stand up. You’ll have more energy in your voice if you’re standing. Turn off any other phones or electronic devices that might make noise while you’re talking, and go to a room that has lots of sound-absorbers. Carpets, upholstered furniture, and drapes will give you less echo than hardwood floors, picture windows, or granite counters.
If a reporter calls, says there’s a tight deadline and you need to talk now, you don’t usually want to say yes. Ask the following questions: when, exactly, is your deadline? What type of information are you looking for? What is the overall story about? Who else have you spoken to?
If you think it’s a good idea to grant the interview, ask for time to gather the information and check facts, and have them call you back, even if it’s in just a few minutes.
After the story is printed, posted, or aired, thank the reporter and offer to be a resource in the future. If there was an inaccuracy, point it out nicely, and give the correct information. If it was a major mistake, ask if they can print or state a correction. Use the story different ways: put it on your website; Tweet about it, use quotes in your marketing materials; leverage it to position yourself as an expert to get speaking engagements. You did the work, now make it all work for you!