So, what happens when all of your PR activity actually prompts a reporter to call for an interview? Getting the interview is only one-half of the deal. Follow the steps below, and you are more likely to turn your interview into a powerful marketing tool.
Set Goals for the Interview
When a reporter calls to schedule an interview, either by phone or in person, ask a couple of innocent questions. Find out the nature of the story, who is the audience, when it is expected to run. The answers to these questions will help you better prepare your responses.
Never Wing It
The primary point of almost any interview you will be asked to give is to get your company’s core message communicated in a compelling manner.
To do this in the context of an interview, you should script very quotable core message sound bites, no more than 20 seconds or so in length, and be prepared to deliver them word for word at the appropriate time.
Break the Ice
When a reporter that you may not know calls to interview you, there is often a bit of a control issue. The reporter is asking all the questions, so he/she is in control. You actually want to wrestle some of this away right up front. Think about this like you would a sales call. In order for you to get your message told, you may need to interject it into the discussion.
I find that asking a couple of ice-breaking questions can be a great way to settle your nerves and open up the reporter. My favorite questions are to ask the reporter where they are from or what brought them to this specific publication. Establishing a little personal ground seems to make everyone a little more relaxed.
Sometimes a reporter just won’t get what you are trying to communicate. Or worse, he/she seems to want to talk about everything but the key points you are trying to communicate. It’s not that the reporter is intentionally being difficult, most of the time it is because he/she may not really know much about your industry. In these cases you need to have a few redirecting phrases that allow you to answer his/her questions with your answers.
Here are a few phrases that work wonders:
~ What’s important to consider in this case, though . . .
~ Let me make that more relevant for your readers . . .
~ What we can take from that point is . . .
~ That’s a good example, but I think you’d also be interested in knowing . . .
The key to redirecting a question from a journalist, of course, is to have a plan and preset answers. Then all you have to do is be alert for the proper way to direct the journalist to your message.
Sometimes you will get a question for which you don’t have an answer. Don’t panic and don’t make up an answer. Simply tell the journalist that you don’t know the answer, but promise to get it. This can give you a great excuse to follow up with a reporter. Oftentimes you remember some other point you wished you had made and you can add during a follow-up call.
One Last Thing
I find that it’s good to get the last word. Many journalists have been schooled to finish an interview with an open-ended question like, “is there anything else you would like our readers to know about . . .”
This is a great sound bite opportunity, and you should always have a prepared comment that is very powerful.
Even if the reporter doesn’t ask, you should interject your last statement, “You know, there’s one more thing I’d like to point out.”
Prepare a Takeaway
Make it as easy as you can for the journalist to get the facts and figures right. Prepare some sort of takeaway that will help your story and make sure that all your contact information, including web sites and other places to find more information, is included. If the interview is via phone, you can email or fax the takeaway.