Media Interviews are often the bane of any spokesperson in most companies, since they have to be on constant guard during these interactions to avoid anything inadvertent or ‘off the record’ to slip out. Typically the PR firm will step in and help them prepare adequately to avoid any misadventures. However, in reality it is no rocket science and simply factoring in a few simple measures can ensure smooth and controlled interactions. Following these simple tips can make any person independently handle even the most difficult of situations with ease and aplomb.
- Know your script
The first step for any spokesperson is to be comfortable with the company narrative. You have to be comfortable with an overview about the company and be ready with handy facts, milestones and other recent developments. Remember being a spokesperson you are expected to be knowledgeable about basic facts and developments about the company.
- Know your interviewer
Try to read up about the interviewer before the meeting. With several online tools available these days, a simple google search should throw up basic information about any journalist in today’s digital age. Knowing your interviewer often helps you control the discussion better, as you can then steer the conversation in the direction of his comfort zone. Even the journalist would appreciate the professionalism shown by the effort that you have taken to learn about him. Remember a journalist is only doing a job and they have to meet scores of people like you on a daily basis. Hence it is in our interest to know them and to then engage with them effectively.
- Research the media house and format
It also pays to have basic knowledge about the media house that the journalist is representing. I have personally witnessed a situation where a journalist ended up writing a negative piece when the respondent feigned ignorance of the particular media house during the interaction. Just practicing due diligence in understanding what a media format and flavor is all about will help you in providing custom information that is relevant to its readers.
- Identify an interesting angle
Take out time to think through something that can be used as a ‘scoop’ for lack of a better word. Remember journalists are always looking for something newsy and different. They are answerable to their editors and they are expected to find some sort of a news angle from every interaction. Helping them do their jobs with ease will only earn you their goodwill in return. However do no try to shove something that you believe to be a scoop down their throat. Let them decide if it is interesting for their readers.
- Take control with information
Taking control is a tricky affair. One has to drive a conversation in such a way that they are respectful of your domain knowledge. Peppering every conversation with interesting news items and insights will help you develop an engaging relationship with the correspondent. Hence take control in such a way that you have relevant information to provide and keep the journalist engaged.
- Be helpful and genuine
Always remember that an interaction with a journalist is a professional exchange. The common rules of social engagement play here too. A cordial person will always be appreciated by a journalist. Journalists can see through fake individuals and this can have adverse impact on the company that the spokesperson represents. Remember you need them more than they need you in most instances. Being resourceful and cordial will also have a positive bearing on the brand that you represent.
- Be clear in your communication
While clarity in communication may sound like a petty point to include on such a heavy topic, believe you me that this menial factor has often damaged reputations and further resulting in crisis situation. Remember that journalists are in a hurry and are working on tight deadlines, hence the onus is on the spokesperson to clearly and effectively convey their message. I have been privy to scenarios where a journalist felt a spokesperson was saying something and then went ahead and filed the story without clarifying since it was sensational. The said company then went on damage control mode for several weeks to mitigate the after effects.
In summary, a media interview is one of the most routine modes of communicating with a journalist. Hence keeping these simple tips in mind can help you breeze through any situation effortlessly. More importantly remember that it is in your interest to build a rapport with them as it is also a part of brand building for your company. Being mindful of these simple yet effective tips can go a long way in molding an individual into a successful media spokesperson, which is also a must today for any C-Suite Executive.