Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. We see people pitch interviews to media contacts all the time, only to be caught like a deer in the headlights when the journalist says yes. Interviewing people for articles is a skill, but so is being interviewed. Here are five tips for PR professionals and brand representatives.
1. Do Your Homework
Before the interview it is essential to do some research into the journalist and their publication. Who is their audience? What topics do they normally cover? Have they written about your brand or your competition in the past? Journalists are more likely to engage with you if you engage with them, so mention some of their past work or ask questions about other stories they’ve covered. This will help deepen the relationship and break the ice.
2. Develop Key Messages
Decide which two or three points you really want to stick out in the reporter’s mind. Don’t be repetitive, but think of ways to tie back to these messages throughout the interview. The messages should be selected with the publication’s audience in mind and if possible, they should tie into broader trends or stories. Messages that are entirely brand-centric, rarely resonate.
3. Plan for the “Gotchas”
Just like sales people prepare responses to expected rejections before a sales call, you should prepare for the most difficult questions that might possibly be asked. Ask yourself, “Which question do I really, really hope they don’t ask?” and then figure out the answer. The news networks offer plenty of examples right now of politicians who clearly haven’t done this.
4. Think Before You Speak
This may seem obvious, but it is stunning how often people feel they must answer a question immediately and say something they later regret. Assume that everything you say might be reported. You can’t retract it later. So if a tough question comes, take a deep breath. It is OK to pause. It is OK to say, “That’s an interesting question.” And it is absolutely OK to say, “I’d like to think about (or look into) that and get back to you.”
5. Establish Next Steps and Follow Up
It is fair to ask at the end of an interview what the reporter plans to do next. Ask when the story is planned for publication or at least that you be notified when it runs. If there are any unanswered questions or request for additional background or assets, be sure to follow up promptly.
Bonus Tip – Say Thank You
Be sure both at the end of the interview and in writing afterward to thank the journalist for their interest in your brand. Hopefully the interview will be just the start of a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.