When it comes to public relations, clients often know that talking to reporters is a big part of the effort to get their stories told. And they're either excited or terrified by the prospect of media interviews. In either case, they often need one thing before they meet the press, and that's media training.
Having been both reporter and PR professional, I know how media interviews work and coach clients on how to be successful in them. Here are some of my top tips.
1. Stick to what you know.
Don't talk about things that are outside your area of expertise. It's OK to say you don't know. And it's even better if you can refer the reporter to an expert who can better answer a certain line of questions. Reporters remember the sources who are helpful to them, and that's what it's about -- helping the reporter. If you can do that, you will be called on -- and perhaps quoted -- more than one.
2. Do your homework.
Find out what you can about the reporter, the media outlet and the story. You want to have an idea of what types of stories the reporter has worked on in the past and how to tell your story in a way that will resonate with the particular audience. If your PR pro puts together background for you, read it.
3. Practice what you might say.
You won't know every question a reporter might ask. But you know the basics? What do you do? What is your business? Why do you do what you do? Think of all the who, what, when, where, why questions and practice succinct, quotable responses. In broadcast interviews, especially pre-taped ones, it is particularly helpful if you can repeat the question in your response. "Well, Amy, my business is XXX and I founded it two years ago because XXX."
4. Dial down the salesy.
Know what you do that is interesting and different and talk about it in a straightforward way. No need to say you or what you do is unique. You will be hard pressed to find a reporter who will reference how unique you are. Use real information to convey how whatever you do is different or stands out from everyone else in the marketplace.
5. Consider some formal media training.
Some people are naturally better than others at having a conversation with reporters. But everybody can get better with some practice and training. If you work with PR professionals, ask if they provide media training or can refer you to outside media trainers. A media trainer can teach you how to guide the conversation in the direction you want it to go and handle difficult questions without saying "no comment," which is often a terrible idea.