A reporter’s request for an interview just came in. You have the topic and the deadline. Is your spokesperson ready? For more than 15 years, Van Eperen has helped clients navigate their way through it all—whether it was their first or fortieth media interview. Here are just a few tips to help you be better prepared.
Know the reporter, know the outlet, know the audience. This is all-important information for not only securing the interview but for conducting it, too. Is the reporter intimately familiar with the topic or is this a relatively new area for them? How will the story be viewed—read online in print, audio-only, or with video? Is the audience B2B or general consumer?
Know the answers to these questions and how to adapt your answers to best fit them.
Also, is the interview being conducted over the phone or video? If a platform like Zoom is being used, confirm if it is audio or video, you don’t want your spokesperson joining a “surprise” video interview.
Use the research you’ve done to be as prepared as possible. Prep your spokesperson with examples, facts, statistics, analogies, and graphics (if needed) to help illustrate and emphasize key messages.
Conduct a prep session. These days it’s unlikely you will do this in-person. That’s okay, just consider the interview structure and try to mimic it. Have your spokesperson review key messages and practice delivering them. Never wing it!
When answering a negative question, your spokesperson should neutralize the negative first, then bridge to one or two key points. Don’t repeat the negative.
If your spokesperson doesn’t know the answer, they should never guess or say, “no comment.” It implies that they have something to hide or is on the defensive.
If it’s a subject they simply cannot address, use a non-defensive phrase and pivot. For example: “We are not able to provide that information at this time, but as I said before…” (repeat main message points). If possible, refer the reporter to someone who can answer the question or follow-up after the interview. Saying, “I don’t have that information right now but will send it to you ASAP,” is perfectly fine—as long as you deliver on the follow-up.
“Off the record” is a very tricky area and should only be used in rare cases when there is a very clear understanding and agreement with the reporter and outlet about its use.
Don’t answer a question or make a comment and then say: “That was off the record.”
Best practice: Just avoid using “off the record.”
So, the interview is over, how did it go? It’s good practice to provide constructive feedback to your spokesperson. We get that this can be challenging. Did the interview highlight a need for a refresher media training session? Is your spokesperson new to the role and/or, along with other leadership, would value a more comprehensive session? Many times, it’s helpful to have a third-party lead these and be the one to offer honest feedback.
We hope you find these tips valuable. To learn about our one-on-one or group virtual media and presentation training sessions, contact us today: info@VanEperen.com
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