You’ve been contacted by a reporter for a story and you can’t believe your good fortune. Visions of reprints, television interviews and radio coverage dance in your head. You’re already planning the celebration.
Before you get carried away, here are a few guidelines for talking with the media that will help you tell your story and represent yourself and your company well in the process.
Know your facts. Be prepared to discuss the identified topic in regards to your area of expertise and your message. When you are being interviewed for a story, plan ahead for the key points that you want to make; then, be prepared for the reporter to have specific questions they want answered. Some questions will be impromptu based on the responses that you have given.
Know your main message and be able to state it succinctly. Nobody wants to hear a long, winding build-up, and meandering into left field is a sure way to get your interview abruptly cut short. The shorter and more concise your sentences, the better your chance of being quoted directly in the article (a real plus for you!).
Leave out the jargon; it will just make the reporter have to do research to interpret your words for their story. With the deadlines they work under, they would rather call another expert than try to find extra time for that task. Never assume the reporter “should know” and always remember that you message is going to be conveyed to their readers in the best manner they know how. Make that task easy by speaking using words that are as easily understood as possible.
Do what you can to save the reporter time. Accurate information is what they seek. Be prepared to give facts and offer resources for backup. Don’t base your comments on something you vaguely heard about. When speaking from your experience, be specific. Broad generalities are not often useful without something to back up your premise.
Know that you are “on the record”. When you are talking with the reporter, you are “on the record”. Don’t expect there to be an official “start” to the interview; and then, don’t think that because the “formal” part of the interview is over, that you are now “off the record” with anything you say. You are on the record until you hang up unless you have a specific arrangement otherwise. Some reporters will record the conversation and of those, most will tell you if you are being recorded. Here that hint there? You are ALWAYS on the record.
Be available. It might seem obvious, but it bears stating. If you contact a reporter to be a part of a story they are doing and they cannot take your call at that time, you must be available when they return your call. If you don’t answer your own phone, instruct your staff on how to handle the call and more importantly, how to get you on the phone right away for the interview. There may be some flexibility in how that happens, every reporter is different. However, they are working on a deadline and if you aren’t available, somebody else will be. Take the call when it comes unless it’s an absolute impossibility. Even then, the reporter should be thanked for attempting to include you in the story.
If you have tips to add or experiences to share, please use the comments below. We would love to hear your experiences!
Not a member yet?