This post was first published by Sarah Hurley on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
In the world of tech PR, the summer months bring a small respite between the tradeshow-crazed spring and fall. This gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on the positives and negatives of the many briefings we facilitated either on-site or by phone between our clients and the journalists and analysts who interview them.
In taking a look back and chatting internally with colleagues, one thing is clear: there’s a strong distinction in poise and delivery between those executives who have received specialized media training and those who haven’t. And with good reason: like public speaking, media briefings put spokespeople at the center of attention, which isn’t exactly a natural state of being.
Spokespeople have the added pressure of delivering synchronized company messaging and sound bites to increase the chances of being quoted in a feature article. Even the most charismatic and emphatic execs can stumble.
Given the lull before the tradeshow storm, now’s a good a time to brush up on the basics. So, what is there to know about conducting a media interview and what makes one interview a success?
Here are three tips to get you started:
1. Know your audience.
Take time to read your interviewer’s recent articles or reports. If possible, try to incorporate something you learned from that story into your discussion. Above all else, you need to show that you can fit the reporter’s niche or beat, whether it covers business or high-tech. That way, you can tell your story that’s relevant to that specific audience of readers.
2. Answer the question.
Respect your interviewer by acknowledging each question, even if it might not seem relevant to the discussion. If you aren’t sure if a particular question was answered, ask. Most importantly, if you don’t know the answer, be honest. This demonstrates integrity and opens the door for future correspondence, during which you can deliver materials that might help answer the question in more detail.
3. Stay in control of your message.
Use questions to bridge your key talking points. If you’re conducting a phone briefing, it’s helpful to have these points written in front of you. If the meeting is live, rehearse them a few times to keep these ideas top of mind. If conversations organically veer off-topic, use the end of your conversation to bring it back to the big picture. Reporters will respect it if you’re upfront with your objectives, by saying: “To finish, here are the two things I hope you took away from this call.”
There are many ways to prepare for media and analyst interviews. Like everything else in life, practice makes permanent – so make sure when you practice, practice the right things and practice them well.
We’ve found that the more times a spokesperson meets with influencers in person or speaks to them on the phone, the more the client learns how the interviewer thinks. Then, it’s easier to discuss a trending issue, product launch, or answer those “gotcha” questions without skipping a beat.