PR Diaries: Shaking the Shakes During Media Interviews

Best Practices

With email, Cision, Profnet, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other platform on the internet, talking with the media couldn’t get easier. But what happens when traditional media outlets want to, you know, talk to you in REAL LIFE?! I know, my skin is crawling too, but even with all of our access to internet communication, we still have to be real people and be professionals in every aspect of media, even real life. As someone who works for a digital media agency, this traditional PR was a tough adjustment, but let me tell you, it’s never going away. Even if everyone claims traditional media is dying, we still need to ace our communication for the (few) times we need to. Let’s tackle this traditional PR practice together with 6 of my best practices.

Even if everyone claims traditional media is dying, we still need to ace our communication. Click To Tweet

 

Gather your key messages

Whatever it is you’re promoting, find your handful of key messages and keep in mind the 7 elements of newsworthiness. Pick three messages that define your event, article, release, etc and write them out in a short, bulleted list. This will help across all boards of communication when speaking with the media. Three points to wrap up any promotion should include:

  • What it is
  • Who it’s for
  • Why it’s important/beneficial

These key points are great to bring the conversation back to base if the reporter ever veers from the conversation. Use your bulleted list to drive your initial message home and speak to what you came there for. While it’s flattering to have media ask questions about your client, falling from the initial topic will lose the focal point on the main event.

 

Elaborate

Most reporters know well enough not to ask ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, but in the case they do, try to elaborate as much as possible. For example, instead of answering just yes, keep going with, “Yes, because this is why…” or “No, and this is why not…” Even if you know your promotion well enough to marry it, being recorded on an interview or being on camera makes it very easy to forget details; keep a FAQ’s sheet and press release in front of you so you can give as much information as possible.

 

Don’t be scurred, baby girl

Reporters will often leave a gap of silence after you’ve answered a question to prompt you to say more. As someone who rambles nervously when there’s a lur in conversation, I’m telling you nothing good comes from scrambling for more to say. Just like our grandmother’s used to tell us nothing good happens after 2am, same story, different time here. Once you’ve given the best answer you can come up with, leave it on a good, constructive note.

 

Hypotheticals Aren’t Cute

Hypothetical questions never helped anyone’s image except for making them look like a big dreamer, which is fine, just not for PR. We report and present the hard facts of what is happening, where, who should attend and why. That’s it. If ever asked a hypothetical, kindly respond, “I’m not sure, but I’m happy to follow-up once we have the results.” This also prompts them to follow-up with you later on after the event, study, etc, with real answers.

 

The Reporter is Your Friend…but Also…Not

It’s easy to become comfortable during an interview that’s going well and feel like you’ve grown a bond with the reporter. But never forget, nothing will ever be “off the record,” no matter how cool you think the reporter is. Never ask for something to be “off the record” and never respond to anything as though it were “off the record”. Everything you say to the media is fit to print. This is where those key messages come in handy. Drive back to those if you ever start feeling uncomfortable so you don’t reveal anything you’re not supposed to, and remember, you don’t have to answer every single question. Politely say, “I’m not sure, but I’ll report back to you within 24 hours when I’ve gathered the right information.” And DO follow-up if you promise answers to keep your credibility high and rising.

 

Don’t appear untrustworthy and unreliable when you’re representing someone else’s brand.

Always offer more

Nine times out of ten, reporters will ask if you have anything else you’d like to add before they conclude the interview. Before painfully rushing to say, “Nope! Thanks bye!” at the very least, reiterate your three key messages you started with; give a twitter handle or website for viewers to read more information or pull any additional key information from your FAQs/release that wasn’t touched on. Media coverage is brief, fast and hard to get your hands on, take advantage of getting every bit of important information out there as possible while you have them there.

Remember to memorize your key points, elaborate, don’t give into the silence, avoid predictions, don’t fall into the “off the record” pit, and always include extra information before signing off, always.

Did I forget any best practices when speaking to the media that you like to do? Tweet me @NoelleBellLynne!

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