Recently Sir Bob Geldof hit the headlines not for the fundraising he was doing to support victims of Ebola, but instead for responding poorly to a question posed by a journalist and swearing twice. Bob’s mistake is not in isolation says Justine Smith, our Managing Director of KISS PR, as thousands of media interviews are carried out every week, with spokespeople often making simple mistakes that can cost their own personal or organisation’s reputation.
“Too many times spokespeople launch themselves into an interview without taking the time to think about their key messages, how to deliver them and importantly, what the journalist is actually interested in.
“If handled correctly the media poses a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of a company and potentially increase sales, but only when it is done right. Media training provides spokespeople with the skills required to balance the objectives of the company with the wants of the journalist.”
“Preparation is the most important part of any media interview. Before you think about anything else you need to know what publication the journalist represents, who their audience is and most importantly what their angle is. Are they doing a story that may paint your company in a bad light? Are there any current industry stories that the journalist might ask you about?
“Once you know this information you can begin to think about your key messages and what it is you want to get across. Don’t forget your key messages have to be of interest to the media channel’s audience and can’t be overly promotional. Try to identify some facts and statistics that would complement your key messages too.”
“To deliver your key messages confidently, whilst having a conversation with the journalist it is best to practise your interview technique. Write down some questions you might be asked and get a colleague to go through them with you. Don’t leave out the tough questions as they will be even harder to answer in a real interview situation if you haven’t practiced.
“Interestingly it is surprising how many people can’t say what their company does in a sentence or two, so this is usually a good starting place and an obvious question you will be asked in an interview.”
“Any interview is a performance, even if it isn’t in front of the camera. Your pace of delivery and tone of voice will influence your relationship with the audience and how the interview turns out. Make sure you appear smart, use positive language and be enthusiastic about what you do. Stay calm and be yourself.”
Justine gives her 10 dos and don’ts of dealing with the media:
|1. Keep your responses short and concise, avoid jargon|
|2. Answer the question|
|3. Appreciate that the journalist’s agenda isn’t necessarily the same as your own|
|4. Research the publication and its style / tone before you meet them|
|5. Be positive, upbeat and enthusiastic about what you do|
|1. Do not ask for sight of the interview before it is published|
|2. Nothing is off the record, don’t ever risk thinking otherwise|
|3. Don’t go into an interview unprepared. Always know your key messages and ensure they are tailored to the publication’s audience|
|4. Once you have finished answering a question stop speaking. Don’t waffle on|
|5. Don’t forget speaking to the media is a great opportunity – make the most of it|
Justine concludes: “It can be a daunting experience for even the most accomplished of speakers to engage with the media. However, if done correctly it can be a very rewarding exercise, where both the journalist’s goals and your own can be satisfied, resulting in fantastic coverage for your company.”