When the time comes for a company spokesperson to front the firing line, so to speak, by agreeing to a media interview, there are some key points to remember that can make the process a little less painful for those unfamiliar with being interviewed.
The objective for any interview is to promote your brand/company and get the best possible outcome from the interview, regardless of whether you have only a positive story to tell or you are responding to a crisis.
Using a step by step process before and during the interview can be useful in ensuring that you are prepared for any questions and a solid understanding of the messages your company would like to highlight is key so that these can be called on readily where appropriate.
Try to identify your target audience right from the start as well as one or two clear and concise messages to memorise for the interview and look for opportunities during the interview where you can get these messages across.
Remember that just because it is a journalist that will be asking you the questions, you can still manage your responses. As Henry Kissinger, a master of interviews, once remarked during a press conference whilst Secretary of State, “Does anyone have any questions for my answers?’
Developing a ‘worst-case-scenario’ line of questioning and devising ideal responses, is another good way to ensure you do not take on the appearance of a deer in headlights on television, or ignorant on radio or in print.
Spend some time investigating the journalist and their style of writing and ask yourself a few questions. Do they often highlight bad news or sensationalise content to sell a story or are they fair and balanced in their reporting? Are they hard on their interviewees? You’ll need to prepare for this in your Q and A document.
Make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the publication or media program –whether television or radio, that will feature the interview and ensure that your responses or indeed participation is suitable for your company.
Some further questions to ask yourself or discuss internally before a media interview include:
- Will the interview be worthwhile for the brand/company in terms of publicity?
- Do the readers of the publication or media audience fall into a demographic that your company would like to target?
If the interview centres around an issue your business is currently trying to manage or the journalist is requesting a response to a negative issue, do not avoid them and hope the problem will go away.
The old adage that today’s newspaper is lining tomorrow’s bin no longer rings entirely true in the age of the internet, where not only does news appear very quickly, but it remains there indefinitely.
Furthermore, ignoring interview requests will often result in an annoyed journalist, who quite often will go on to include a par within their story along the lines of ‘The Company declined to comment’, or the dreaded ‘At time of press, the company had still not responded to our request for an interview’.
Additionally and even more concerning is if you elect not to participate in an interview the journalist will most likely go to your competitors or others that are familiar with your industry for comment, resulting in media coverage containing messages that may not be the ones you want to get across.
Once you have researched the journalist and publication, decided to proceed with the interview and identified key company messages to deliver, remember to also be pleasant and cooperative during the interview. You are after all representing your brand or business and the way you come across will influence public perception.
The interview itself is a great opportunity to establish your credibility, build rapport with the interviewing journalist that will hopefully develop into an ongoing relationship. If the interview is conducted on television or radio, use your body language and tone of voice to create a positive impression.
Viewers are likely to read into body language despite your response, which may be positive, so shifting in your seat nervously or buying time by reaching for that glass of water will tell the audience things that may work to contradict your response.
Last of all, try to relax and enjoy the interview –it is likely to be the first of many and each interview is a valuable learning process.