Win at a media interview with these 10 media training tips
When we create public relations plans for clients, we strategize media placement through timely topics, identified outlets and big ideas to create the right kind of buzz. However, content planning is only part of an effective strategy. The second and most important part is the relationship.
There’s a reason “public relations” sounds so much like the word “relationship.” Establishing trust and good rapport with a member of the media means that person will look forward to working with you in the future, and will be open to you reaching out when you have other timely information and potential stories to share.
Conversely, if interactions with the media don’t go well, they’re not going to be thrilled when you reach out again. Makes sense, right? We’re all human.
At Verdin, we provide our clients with a comprehensive list of tips for before, during and after an interview. In this article, we’ve pulled out what we would call our “top ten.” You should be familiar with these practices before you head into a media interview:
1. Respect deadlines. Know when reporters will be scrambling to meet deadlines, and don’t call during that time unless you have breaking news. Most TV stations or daily newspapers don’t appreciate calls after 3pm, as they are busy finalizing stories for that night’s newscast or the next morning’s paper.
2. Help the reporter see the full story. Readers and listeners will always rather hear a story about a person than a program. If you are talking to a TV reporter, have ideas for visuals they can shoot for the story.
3. Make it as easy on them as possible. Provide interview contact names and numbers, background, simple fact sheets. Offer video or photos if available; set up interviews as needed. After an interview, offer to review quotes or to get additional information. Don’t overwhelm them, but gauge how you can be helpful.
4. Plan ahead.Develop talking points and prepare by brainstorming questions you may be asked. Think of the hardest questions, and those you hope won’t be asked, and practice the answers. Knowing your talking points and planning ahead is your opportunity to ensure you will get your key message points into your answers.
5. When a question is asked, pause to prepare you answer. The pause will seem long to you, but will be only a moment to anyone else. You will provide a better answer if you stop to think.
6. Be concise.Keep your answers short and to the point. Brevity is especially important for TV and radio (think “sound bytes”). However, don’t simply say yes or no, and answer in full sentences.
7. Know and repeat your main points.It’s important to head into an interview with a clear idea of the key messages you want to convey. Say them in different ways to make sure they get across.
8. Be honest. You must be truthful to be credible. If you don’t know the answer to a question, explain that you don’t know but will find out. Make certain you follow up with the information to the reporter. Just remember there is no “off the record,” and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want published.
9. Avoid using the reporter’s name. This might sound counter-intuitive, but remember that reporters are looking for sound bytes, and if their name is included it limits how that byte can be used.
10. Thank reporters and other media for their help. A simple thank you note (”I appreciate your assistance and the thoroughness of your story”) is all that’s required. Do not gift or take media reps out for coffee or a meal. You’re not trying to buy their attention, you simply want to let them know you appreciate their time and hard work. Because they do work really hard.
There’s lots more where these tips came from, and we’d love to help you craft a strategy specific to your brand and your desired media placement. Learn more about our public relations work on our website, and feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected]. Let’s get your message out there!