by Renee Fellows
January 17, 2006—Earned media or news coverage that isn’t the result of paid advertising can be a very elusive marketing tool to small business owners. If you’re considering media coverage as part of your 2006 marketing communications plan, now is a great time to start learning some of the best kept secrets of better interviewing.
First, understand that becoming a reliable resource for reporters and journalists doesn’t happen overnight. The process requires an investment of time, strategic planning and patience. Once achieved, your relationships with journalists and reporters will be highly valued and sought after while simultaneously boosting the visibility of your organization.
1) Be prepared. The old Boy Scout adage especially holds true for interviews. While this concept may seem like a no brainer, it’s always amazing to see how many interviewees arrive unprepared to answer the journalist’s questions. Be sure that you and your staff have had time to consider the possible questions and develop strategic responses. Do your homework on industry statistics that may be relevant and have them at the ready when key questions are asked. Finally, plan ahead for possible questions and review your responses before you sit down.
2) Speak deliberately. When preparing for the interview, actually plan out and say your responses aloud. If you feel that you’re speaking too quickly or that you’re having a hard time catching your breath, slow down the pace. If you’re doing a radio or television interview remember that the final piece is considerably shorter than print stories. Try to think out responses in sound bites that are 10-20 seconds in length as editors will be looking and listening for these as they piece together the story. Practice in the mirror, make eye contact (either with the reporter or into the camera’s lens), and breathe.
3) Remain calm. Even if the questions begin to deviate from the original agreed upon topic toward an area that’s less familiar, remember that you need to appear calm and in control of the interview. If you seem overly nervous or appear frazzled, your responses may seem disingenuous or worse yet, like you’re hiding something.
4) Speak frankly and in times of a crisis especially, always speak the truth. If you do not have an appropriate answer at the time of the interview, tell the reporter(s) that you will check and get back to them (within a set time frame) with an answer. Then, actually get back to them with a response. Don’t use the line ‘I’ll check and get back to you’ as an automatic escape clause. Used once with no follow up and the media will begin to trust you less.
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5) Avoid techno-jargon and corporate speak. Remember to use language that the general population can understand. Vary your word choices depending on your target audience. If you’re interviewing with a trade publication, you may feel more comfortable sprinkling in more techno-jargon than you would if the interview is for a local paper.
6) Tell a story. The best interviews are often generated from a simple story that effectively relays how the business discovered a pain point within a specific consumer population and then created a way to address that issue.
7) Be an industry expert. By writing articles (or via a ghost writer in your name) you’ll begin to establish yourself and your business as experts in your industry. A reporter on a deadline seeks out those experts for quotes and to verify research in their story. Knowing that you regularly go above and beyond to make yourself and your expertise available for on-air interviews and print deadlines will go a long way with a journalist on a deadline.
8) Offer access to information. Journalists are very busy people dealing with a multitude of issues, story lines and breaking news coverage throughout the course of their day. Do you have access to industry data, a law library or staff that can perform research? Extend the offer to key media outlets to utilize your resources. By lending your expertise and research facilities to the media, you’ll be lightening their work load and making their jobs that much easier. Over time, you will become a trusted source for information.
9) Be passionate. Remember that you are a champion for whatever product, service or cause you are representing. Be enthusiastic about the topic at hand and your role in it. If you’re a plumber, then be a happy plumber that loves his work and it will show through on the interview. Think about how Bob Villa made home construction projects entertaining and sometimes even a little humorous and try to follow suit.
10) Be a great guest. Consider interviewing like being a house guest. Respect the journalist’s time by arriving promptly or even a little early for the interview. Be cordial, conversational and even entertaining. A good on-air interview is above all else, enjoyable. No one wants to watch a guest that looks like a stunned deer in headlights, but rather someone that is jovial, informative and at ease. Above all, be current. Take the time every day to read pertinent journals, newspapers, and to stay abreast of hot news items. Rarely does news happen in a vacuum. One news story usually has a trickle down affect into other story lines. For example, if oil prices are skyrocketing it will not only affect gasoline but plastics, printing, shipping and a multitude of other industries and products. Whenever possible, make an effort to tie your business and your topic to other current news events and how they relate to one another.
There are many more ways that you can begin to build a solid media relations campaign. To learn more about media relations and how to use it to build your marketing communications strategy, contact Renee Fellows at ClearPoint Marketing Communications by calling (603) 434-9433 or via email at Rfellows@oneclearpoint.com.
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