When gaining notoriety for your company, the only event more exciting than securing an interview with a reporter is seeing the result of the interview in a published article. Ironically, not knowing how the reporter will transform your interview into the published word is also one of the scariest events on your road to fame.
Media coverage is a must when it comes to becoming a real player in the marketplace (you can’t even consider having a Wikipedia page without it), but if you haven’t had media training and don’t know how to succeed in an interview with the press, the resulting article may be damaging to both your company’s reputation and your own. Fortunately, there are time-tested rules for handling an interview and enjoying the myriad benefits of positive publicity: your sales reps can promote the invaluable third-party credibility media coverage provides; it can be shared online, over your social media platforms and on your website; your marketing team can create campaigns around it.
Here are five of the top 10 rules to follow when being interviewed by a reporter. The second installment of this two-part blog topic will reveal the remaining five. Pay heed, future interviewee!
- Remember that everything you say is on the record
- Contrary to what you see on TV, there is no such thing as “off the record.” Telling someone to disregard what you just said as being “off the record” is like asking a jury to forget what they just heard because they shouldn’t have heard it. If you don’t want it to be remembered and possibly published, then don’t say it.
- Answer questions concisely. If the reporter is silent after your response, do not fill the void…wait until he or she asks for clarification or moves on to a new question.
- Between questions, give the reporter time to process what you’ve said and take notes. Talking over yourself only serves to make what you just said forgettable. We always aim to get the interview questions in advance so our clients have time to prepare and know what to expect.
- Be positive and show your concern. Avoid blame and judgments.
- If your interview is about a less-than-ideal situation that has occurred, don’t dig yourself into a deeper hole by risking libel and slander in an effort to exonerate yourself or your company by blaming or judging others’ actions. Your PR rep can help you strategize a diplomatic way to deal with crisis situations.
- If you make a mistake, correct it immediately.
- If the reporter characterizes the situation incorrectly, make sure you set the factual record straight right away. It’s far easier to correct a misstep now than after it has been published, especially if it is published in print rather than, or in addition to, online. Having your PR rep on the interview with you makes it a lot easier to smooth over what may come out of a nervous motor mouth or momentary lapse in judgement.
- Be friendly, but keep in mind the reporter is not your friend. Neither is the reporter your enemy…necessarily. Reporters are doing their jobs, and that includes questions they ask that may incite you.
- Refer back to rule #1—if you don’t want it published, don’t say it.
Media interviews can be intimidating, but having a competent PR advocate in your corner goes a long way to removing your jitters. Likewise, your PR advocate goes far beyond securing the media opportunity—they can also serve as your support system before the interview by vetting the opportunity, during the call by providing introductions and back-up, and after the interview by ensuring the reporter has all they need to accurately report.
Look for the next five rules for speaking with a reporter in my next blog post. In the meanwhile, give Sterling a call to prepare you for your next media interview!