If you and your company are new to PR, you likely can’t wait to land your first media interview. An interview is an exciting PR and media relations win, no doubt. But if you haven’t been trained on how to best work with media, you might find your usually-confident voice wavering on a call as you wonder, “Was I supposed to say that?”
While this would need to be an incredibly lengthy post in order to cover all aspects of media relations management and training, today we’ll give you the basics that will help you get through any media interview with confidence.
Help the reporter hit a deadline.
It’s important to understand that most reporters have to post multiple stories a day. Deadlines have always been one of the most critical aspects of a reporter's job, but they've become even more stressful in today’s environment.
You can make their jobs easier by being prepared with everything they will need. This would include headshots or other visuals, content they can link to or references that support their story, bios and facts on your organization, and other information that you think would help them write and post their story quickly. You will increase your chances of securing a solid article if you build a reputation as a company that’s easy to work with, quick to respond, and eager to offer details around your company and industry’s news.
Never underestimate the value of common courtesies.
Yes, your time is very valuable, but time is just as precious a commodity to a reporter. If you have an interview scheduled with the media, be on time. Better yet, be early. Following are some more “media manners” that set the stage for a solid relationship from the get-go.
Ask upfront how much time the reporter has.
This is a good practice to get into, even if the person you’re speaking with has already said the call would only be 15 minutes. A good way to do this is to simply start the call by saying, “I know this call is slated on our calendars for 15 minutes, and I really want to be conscious of your time. Can you confirm this is still good for you today?”
Don’t ask to see the article.
While this might seem like a normal question to ask a reporter, it’s actually taboo and can be taken as an insult. Once in a blue moon a writer will offer to let you review a post before publishing it simply as a means of fact-checking, but you should never preemptively ask them to share it with you. And if they do share it, keep in mind they are requesting you to review the facts, not change the copy.
The beauty of PR is that you’re not paying for placements. However, this does mean you lack control over what is published. Once an article runs, first enjoy the moment! Then read it for accuracy. If something is factually incorrect, it’s acceptable to go back to the reporter, kindly point it out and ask for a correction; only for that reason though.
Don’t like the tone? Aren’t sold on a certain phrase they’ve used? Stay silent. It wasn’t your article to write and complaining or asking for a change will damage your relationship with that reporter and publication. The relationship with the reporter is far, far more important than you nitpicking an unsatisfactory piece.
Remember that fortune favors the prepared mind.
Stage fright can strike out of the blue during a media interview. Suddenly you’re second-guessing everything you planned to say and your words don’t sound nearly as smooth and intelligent as you thought they would. The solution here: practice the interview ahead of time until you feel confident and comfortable. Anticipate questions the journalist might ask and ask the person practicing with you to throw you some curveballs.
When it comes to the real interview, remember it’s just a conversation. The reporter’s job is to learn, plain and simple.
Understand what “off the record” really means.
There are very, very few circumstances where an “off the record” conversation should be requested. Asking this of a reporter, or worse, assuming that you’re entitled to it by simply saying “this is off the record” is not advisable. The cardinal rule of media interviews is kind of akin to your Miranda rights. Anything and everything you say can – and usually will – end up in the article. If you don’t want it to be published, don’t say it. It really is that straightforward.
In the same vein, if you’re not prepared to actually share hard facts and details with a reporter that they can use to substantiate the story, then don’t waste their time with the interview.
Sometimes in PR management, no press is better than bad press. If you are caught unprepared and unwilling to share information, it may very well be the last interview you ever get with that reporter, or their media entity for that matter.
Keep your head on straight.
Just remember that no matter how intimidating reporters may seem, the press really isn’t out to get you. It is their job to provide the public with important news in an accurate and unbiased manner. Put yourself in their shoes, be exceptionally courteous, and realize everything that comes out of your mouth is likely to end up coming back to you, most likely in ink (at least digital ink). Just keep your eyes on the prize, your feet firm on the ground and keep confidence and conviction in your voice.