I coach my public relations clients on how to have successful interviews with reporters, offering insight from my own years as a journalist. Before a client has an interview, I often provide last minute, essential bits of advice. And just in case some clients think they are pros, and some really are, I tell them that these reminders nonetheless are important. Train and retrain. That's the key to lots of things, including media interviews.
It's not just about getting in a story; it's about protecting your brand and reputation. If you are going to speak with the press, you have to take time to prepare and get your head in the game. Here are the final pre-interview tips I often share with clients.
1. Avoid lots of jargon and corporate speak.
Talk like you would to your mom, best friend or spouse, unless you use word like "turnkey" with these folks. Jargon and corporate speak just aren't quotable. If that's your language, you'll get left out of the story.
2. Get to know the reporter ahead of time.
Try to read a few of the reporter's recent stories in advance of the interview. (Of course, I provide links to stories.) If you can do so naturally, mention one or two in the conversation. Reporters appreciate that. Besides, it's good for you to know what topics interest the journalist who's interviewing you.
3. Be helpful.
That's your primary goal versus selling your particular story. Reporters will often find ways to quote and reference sources and reasons to reach out repeatedly to sources who are helpful versus self promotional.
4. Be specific.
Of course, you do want to talk about your company and your projects, and you absolutely should. But you have to be specific. Don't assume any prior knowledge as there might not be any. Don't make the busy reporter have to do a bunch of Google searches. Think names, dates, locations and other specifics.
5. No multi-tasking.
For the 15, 30, 60 minutes this interview takes, you have to be fully focused on just this. You won't sound as quotable or helpful if you are also reading or answering emails. You might also say something you didn't intend to say. Not saying you would, and it seems obvious, but you'd be surprised.
6. Don't say anything negative about a competitor -- ever.
It will surely be published, and you'll look bad.
7. Don't provide any "off the record" information.
If you have information that you think you want to give that is "off the record," you and your PR pro should discuss that ahead of time. If you are unsure, it is always OK to say "Let's get back to you on that."
8. Be on time.
Everybody is busy. Being on time is respectful to the reporter. It's also about you making this appointment a priority in your day.
9. Have fun.
There's no pressure. Each day another news cycle and chance to be quoted in stories begins.
10. Ask questions.
Ask them before your interview. Your PR pro is there to help ensure you have a successful conversation with reporters and that you are able to shine a spotlight on what you know and do better than anyone else.