Getting the results you want from your media interview. By Catriona Pollard
You have distributed your media release, you have had some interest from journalists, and now a couple of them have called you for an interview. What do you do? The most important thing to remember is that this is an opportunity to send a message to your customers through the journalist.
The first step
It is important not to respond to any questions on the initial call. You will need to be prepared. Remember, you cannot change your quotes or edit the piece after the interview.
Ask the journalists what information they are looking for and the format of the interview (phone, live, taped). Find out what the deadline is and set a time to call back. Make sure you call at the agreed time. You may not be the only person to be interviewed.
Setting your agenda
You should prepare a game plan covering key issues you want to communicate to your public, possible questions about those issues and the answers for each question. It is important to write these out; do not rely on memory. If you are doing a phone interview, have the plan in front of you for easy reference.You must get your key messages across in the interview, irrespective of what questions the journalist asks.
Understand the journalist’s role
The role of the journalist is not to try to catch you out, but to establish the facts and report on them objectively. Do not focus on waiting for a tricky question. Journalists are looking for the truth. If you make claims that cannot be substantiated, the interview will not be used and the media organisation will not ask you for an interview again.
Know the target
Try to develop an understanding of the audience or readership for whom the journalist is reporting. It is worth looking up the journalist’s organisation on the internet, or monitoring its output for a while so you can understand its style.
Practice, practice, practice
After your preparation, review the game plan and conduct a practice interview. Remember, this is an opportunity to get your message across – so make full use of it.
Answer plus one
Don’t just answer the question. Use the questions as an opportunity to make your points. This is called “answer plus one”. In other words, answer the question then add one of your key messages.
Answer in your own time
The journalist is interested in what you have to say, so don’t get flustered if you cannot think of an answer to every question immediately. Take your time; take a deep breath and collect your thoughts before you answer. Some journalists use silence as a technique in the hope that you will fill the silence with unplanned information. Don’t.
The no-comment rule
Don’t say “no comment”, because it implies confirmation of the question. The public will interpret it as an acknowledgement of guilt or a cover-up. Explain why you cannot respond and use one of your key messages. For example: “I can’t respond directly to that question for legal reasons. However, what I can tell you is this …”
Never allow wrongful allegations to stand. If the journalist says something wrong, correct it immediately. Don’t repeat the incorrect information or question, because that will only reinforce it.
Don’t use jargon
Remember the people you are trying to reach: use language they will understand. And don’t assume that journalists are trained in your area of expertise. They may not understand your jargon themselves.
Use your customers to provide testimonials
Depending on the topic of the interview, you may be able to use valued customers to validate your key messages. You would have to be sure they are comfortable speaking to the media, but this is an effective way of illustrating your point and helps your public to understand and identify with you.
Most important – have fun
The interview is a wonderful opportunity to promote your business, your product or yourself. Take control, prepare and enjoy every moment.
How not to: Believe it or not
How not to die of boredom
First prize for the most hard-headed but off-target analysis goes to the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, in his book The Sprit of Terrorism and Requiem for the Twin Towers, in which he looks at the September 11 terrorist attacks. “In terms of collective drama,” he writes, “we can say that the horror for the 4000 victims of dying in those towers was inseparable from the horror of living in them – the horror of living and working in sarcophagi of concrete and steel.” Pity those who went out with such a bang had no chance to indicate which they preferred.
How not to misunderstand your dog
And the prize for the most bizarre piece of research and development goes to the Japanese toy maker Takara, which, in association with the Japan Acoustic Laboratory, has developed a computerised gadget to help canine owners make sense of what Rover is trying to tell them by decoding doggy noises. The device is supposed to translate sounds into about 200 phrases or words, grouped in six emotional categories: fun, frustration, menace, sorrow, demand and self-expression.Takara reports strong sales. Now it is planning a model that will allow dog owners to translate canine sounds over the internet.
How not to make a profit
The award for botched customer relations goes to the Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu, which began refunding money to customers in mid-September after it found that imported beef and pork had been labelled as domestic ton fetch higher prices for a year at two of its stores. Trouble was it didn’t ask customers to produce receipts. As news of the easy money spread, hundreds of “customers” flocked to the stores demanding refunds.
The retailer says its staff were suspicious that many of the people had never visited the shops before, but it still paid out about ¥66 million ($A1 million) to a total of 1930 people; three times the ¥21.2 million in sales it made on the products in question. Seiyu spokesman Ryuichi Goto said managers expected the refund seekers to include people who had not bought the products.” But we took our stance with the honest ones in mind.”
How not to be noticed
The office surveillance award goes to Birsinghpur Coal Mines in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where an impostor was arrested after working at his namesake’s post for 17 years without anyone noticing or reporting any suspicions. Ram Khelawan worked at the company before his cover was blown by the real Ram Khelawan, the United News of India reported.
After falling ill and not going to work for six months, Khelawan assumed that he had been fired and never went back to his office. An impostor with the same name took over his post at the coal mines, drawing the salary and benefits Khelawan was entitled to. The truth emerged when management sent Khelawan a notice and he arrived at the office to find an impostor at his desk. The impostor was arrested.