As a public relations agency, we work with clients in Winnipeg and beyond, from many industries, in jeans or suits, on job sites or in high rises. One of the main PR services we provide for our clients is helping them get publicity, or their story in the news.
Before we start pitching news organizations, we always ask our clients about their experience being interviewed. An inexperienced spokesperson may find that they got their big shot in front of the camera or microphone but didn’t get their message across.
We offer dedicated media training seminars to help clients who really want to practice their media relations skills so they are able to speak clearly and concisely, giving the reporter the most important points in usable sound bites. We focus on imparting and practicing the following four tips:
Prepare Key Messages
Preparing key messages is the most important thing you can do before an interview. Think about a few key points that you want to get across. Review the key points before your interview and work hard to incorporate them into your answers. Unless your interview is played live, only a section of it will be used on the TV or radio or in the newspaper. Repeating your key messages often and in different ways gives them a better chance of appearing in the finished news story.
Keep it Simple
You know tons about your business, more than you’ll ever impart in an interview. Don’t get caught up in talking about technical points, or using industry jargon. The reporter you’re talking to most likely isn’t an expert in your field, andâ€”if they’re part of the mainstream mediaâ€”their audience certainly isn’t. Make sure your key messages are clear and simple and don’t let yourself get caught up in the details.
Keep it Short
A typical newspaper story is between 250 and 1,000 words. For most stories, the reporter will interview more than one person. That means that if you’re approached for a potential story your 20-minute interview will be summarized in a few lines and one or two quotes. In a recorded television or radio interview your answers will be cut into short clips, only a few seconds long. Keep your key messages succinct. Decide what the most important things you have to say are and practice saying them in short, interesting statements. That will make the reporter’s job easier, and also help you get your point across.
Do Your Research
When a reporter calls, be helpful but don’t immediately agree to an interview. Instead ask a few questions to understand what the story is about and if you’re the best person to talk to. Determine who the reporter is, who else they’re talking to, their deadline and – if you can – the angle of the story. Agree on a time to call the reporter back and in the meantime consider your key messages and write them down. Collect all the facts and figures you will need for the interview, and have them in front of you so you don’t have to rely on your memory.