Media Relations for a Connected World
Media Interviews - A guide for talking to the press
If you want to promote your business, technologies and products to the trade magazines that cover your space, you are going to need to brief the press. You will need to talk to them and tell them WHY your product is cool and interesting, and why it needs to be covered in their publication. Here is how to do it.
by Mark Shapiro
1. Why do you want to talk to the press? Most trade and industry writers are NOT looking for dirt or scandal. Their job is to promote the industry – they want you to look and sound good. They want their readers to understand your product or solution, and if appropriate, to go out and buy it. Your job is to make their job easy!
2. It is all about preparation – know your subject, - be able to explain it to a tech person as well as your grandmother. WHY is this important to the publication’s readers and to the industry? No one cares that it is important to you and your company.
3. Know what the editor is looking for. Research the editor’s past columns and bio. What kind of article is the editor doing? Do they already know your company and technology? Who else is he speaking with? When will this be printed or posted online? Will you have an opportunity to review it before it gets submitted?
4. Talking points – what is the message you want convey? – THREE points. Always tie back to these messages. Use them at the end when the reporter asks if you have anything else to add. Remember. WHY is this important?
5. Remember to be truthful. Honest mistakes can be tolerated. There is nothing wrong with saying, "Oops, I made a mistake.”
6. Be an active listener. Listen before you think. Think before you speak. Make sure you understand the question before you try to answer it. PAUSE and talk slowly.
7. Don’t use jargon, especially if you sense the reporter is not familiar with your space. Always begin interview by assessing technical expertise of the editor.
8. Speaking Tips - Keep it simple, short, and vivid. Don’t go off on tangents. Get animated. Speak and act with energy. - Speak in bullets and say it again. Continue to reiterate the three key messages in a variety of ways. - Be sure you mention your company, your services and your products as you speak.
9. Keep Control of the interview - Provide only the information you planned. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. Keep your answers concise. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to check that out and get back to you.” If you don’t understand or are slightly confused, pause, take a moment, and ask for the question to be repeated or rephrased.
10. Don’t give out information that you don’t want to see in print. Feel free to say NO. Writers and reporters hear “No” a lot. It is not a big deal. You can always say, “that’s against corporate policy” or "I can't talk about that.” Don’t talk about your competition, don’t discuss rumors, don’t let secrets slip – unless that was your plan all along….
11. No matter what the interviewer might say, no matter how nice of a guy or gal you think they are, there is no such thing as “off the record.” NDAs are meaningless. Anything you say may appear later in print or on the web. Imagine your mom is sitting next to you listening in. Keep it clean, keep it all above board.
12. Give the journalist time to write things down. In a phone interview, listen for the clicking of the computer keys. Also, every now and then, ask “Did I make myself clear?” or “Is that understandable?” Allow pauses. Some editors are fast - some are verrrrrry slow.
13. Always be on the look out for the softball question - Many times, at the end of the interview, the editor or writer will ask, why is your product, service or announcement important or better than the competition? This is where you get to blast a home run. Be ready for it. If you don't have a ready answer, you should not be doing press briefings.
14. Many editors – at the end of the interview, will ask – was there anything I forgot to ask? Is there anything else that is important for my readers to know? Re-iterate your three BIG POINTS. If they did neglect to bring something up, open your mouth. Don’t be shy! Also, at end, ask when will this be printed or posted online? Ask if they would like you to fact check review the article before it gets submitted.
15. Feel free to ask industry and competitive questions. Most editors – and almost all analysts - consider themselves to be experts. Sometimes you can get very valuable market and competitive information by asking questions – this is especially true of analysts. In fact, at the end of an interview, many analysts will ask – do you have any questions for me? Be prepared with 3 questions.
16. After interview, write down some notes. If PR person was online, review the interview. If a mistake was made, fix it. Have the PR person fix it. ASAP. Once it gets printed or posted online, it may be there forever.
And remember to follow up. If there are any open questions or request for addtional info, graphics, materials, etc., make sure you get them to the editor on a timely basis.
By Mark Shapiro