Being interviewed by the media is hard. However, as a spokesperson, your role is to promote your company’s mission, brand, products, and services to the public. And, as a spokesperson, it’s up to you to make sure you deliver the best interview possible to showcase your organization. It’s part of your job. You’re a brand ambassador for your organization, and you must know how to deliver a stellar interview.
A lot has changed during the past five years. Let’s be honest, a lot has changed from yesterday. Americans consume media in so many ways. According to Lemonly, Americans consume more than 15 hours of media a day. Media overconsumption is an epidemic in this country, so it’s even more important that you deliver your message clearly and concisely, so it breaks through the consumption clutter.
You can’t control the media, but you can manage the message. The most important thing to remember during an interview is to use your key messages. Using key messages will help you maximize media opportunities and be the best possible ambassador for your brand.
The following nine tips will help you make the most out of interviews with the media.
1. Be prepared
Never risk being ill-prepared in an interview with the media. If you’re contacted by a reporter and aren’t prepared, obtain the reporter’s deadline, angle, and specific information needed, then offer to call back. In those instances, the best thing to say is, “I am in a meeting. Please give me your number and I will call you back.” Better yet, have your trusted PR professional call back as soon as possible.
However, to ensure you’re fully prepared when the time comes, memorize one or two key messages or points you want to make beforehand. Write them down and be sure to fit them into some of your answers.
2. Be Accurate
Accuracy is paramount. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and offer to quickly get back to the reporter with the answer.
Also, avoid using words or phrases that make you appear uncertain. These include “apparently,” “it seems,” “kind of,” “possibly,” and “to the best of my knowledge.” Ex: “We ‘kind of’ asked the person in question to leave our property.” Did you, or didn’t you?
3. Be Prompt
Remember that reporters operate under strict deadlines. Return their calls promptly, even if just to ask what the story is about and to schedule a future interview.
If you’re quoted in a press release regarding important news about your company, you should be available and prepared to speak with reporters the day the news is released. Not being available on the same day can lead to a diminishing return on your news story.
4. Deliver Complete Information
Answer questions fully and quickly, provide copies of relevant materials and background information, and make sure to repeat any key points you want included in the story.
5. Be Clear
Speak clearly. Explain things as if you were talking to a 5th grader. Don’t use jargon, acronyms, or abbreviations.
You should also remember to stick to the subject for which you are prepared. If a reporter asks a question that’s not relevant to what you’re speaking about, direct them back to the message you are delivering. And, if you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification. It is OK to ask a reporter to restate a question in a different way.
6. Be Forthcoming
Never say, “No comment.” It sounds like you are hiding something. Instead, explain why you cannot disclose information, rather than leave a reporter speculating about the purity of your motivations.
7. Be Honest
Don’t exaggerate, mislead, or intentionally omit important information. Just answer the question. You don’t have to go into detail. However, if a reporter asks a question you don’t know the answer to, simply say you’ll get back to them with the information. You never want to make up the answer.
8. Avoid the Unforgiveable
Remember you’re always “on the record” when talking to a reporter or to any audience. If you’re divulging sensitive company information to a friend over coffee, the person sitting next to you may be a reporter and report on what they overheard. Be careful!
9. Be Passionate
If you’re not passionate about your company, don’t expect anyone else to be—including reporters.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing
Without practice, you won’t be able to deliver a clear and concise message. Practice makes perfect and these following do’s and don’ts will help you become a great brand ambassador:
- Use the name of your company often during an interview.
- Project expertise and passion for the organization.
- Deliver major points and key messages at every opportunity during the interview.
- Support key points with statistics and data whenever possible.
- Always meet negative questions with positive responses.
- Stay calm and factual if a reporter acts hostile.
- Know your audience.
- Anticipate tough questions and prepare responses in advance.
- Don’t speculate. If you do not know an answer, simply say so and tell the reporter you will get back to them with the answer.
- Don’t disclose sensitive financial information unless given permission by company leadership.
- Don’t repeat a negative statement, even if you were told to repeat the question during the interview.
- Don’t look at the camera, always look at the reporter (unless otherwise instructed).
- Don’t use jargon, acronyms, or phrases without explaining them in language a fifth grader would understand.
- There’s no such things as “off the record.”
- Never say “no comment.” You’ll look like you are hiding something.
- Be prepared, accurate and honest.
- Be mindful of reporters’ deadlines.
- Be passionate, likable, and engaging.
Following these nine tips, knowing your do’s and don’ts, and getting in lots of practice will make you a great company spokesperson.
The great American broadcast journalist, Edward R. Murrow, once said, “To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.” When it comes to speaking with the media, or any target audiences, truer words have never been spoken.