Making the Most of Your Media Interviews
As publications face increasing pressure to do less with more these days, securing media interviews is becoming increasingly difficult for PR pros. The reality is, many publications are cutting back on their editorial staff, and it’s not uncommon for a reporter to turn down an interesting pitch or story simply because they’re stretched too thin to cover anything other than breaking news or previously scheduled assignments. When we do secure these interviews, we always make sure to make the most of them.
Here are a few best practices we encourage to capitalize on those conversations:
The last thing a reporter wants after they’ve given up precious time for this interview is an unprepared interviewee. Trust me, it’ll be the last time they talk to you. That’s why briefing materials are so important. When we secure interviews for our clients, they receive a media briefing sheet complete with:
- Interview context (how it came about, what the pitch focused on)
- Relevant talking points;
- Information about the reporter, including recent articles they’ve written;
- Other topics of interest to discuss if there is extra time.
These briefing materials help prepare our clients prior to the interview so they can get their messages in order. They also ensure that the client and reporter are on the same page before the interview occurs. This leads to a more efficient and streamlined conversation and, hopefully, time to touch on some other relevant topics.
Fast follow-up is key
If our client mentions a great infographic, statistic or other content during the interview that the reporter doesn’t have, we always make sure to get that material to them ASAP, even if they don’t ask for it. I’ll usually jump in on the conversation – either right away if there’s a break in talking – or at the end before saying goodbye, letting the reporter know that I’ll be sure to get them the referenced information after the call.
If I have it available during the interview, I’ll send it over right away – the reporter might find they have other questions now that they have the material in front of them. Getting this information over immediately ensures that the reporter has everything they need to write the article while the interview is still fresh in their mind.
Engage in conversation when necessary – but don’t overdo it
Although we generally keep the conversation between the reporter and our client, there are times when stepping in may be necessary. For example, if the conversation gets too technical for the reporter, it helps to step in and clarify or politely prompt the client to – for lack of better words – “dumb it down”. I’ll wait until they’re finished and say “So, what I think XX is saying here…” or “From a less technical perspective, you’re saying….”. I’ll also jump in if the conversation goes too far off-topic, or in the unfortunate case where a client is getting grilled about a sensitive topic they can’t speak about.
Capitalize on the opportunity to inform the reporter of other upcoming news
If there are any upcoming announcements or product news, I’ll use the interview as an opportunity to let the reporter know about it, and offer to re-connect them with the client ahead of time (or day-of, if I’m not offering the news under embargo). Not only is the reporter more likely to say yes (let’s face it – it’s hard to say no when you’re put on the spot), but it also gives them time to prepare and block off a window in their already-busy schedule.
Interviews provide our clients with excellent opportunities to talk about their businesses, but they can be potentially hazardous if not handled appropriately. We always do our best to prepare our clients and support these opportunities, but it’s important that clients come prepared with their own key messages, and, whenever possible, supporting materials. All of these factors combined can lead to a more controlled and positive interview experience — and improve the chances that the resulting story is positive, too.