Speaking to the Media In today’s day and age no business can operate successfully without a positive and effective relationship with the media. Whether it is Public Relations for a multinational corporate or simply raising the awareness of a small sole trader, media relations are increasingly important. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. While that may not be true, publicity is absolutely essential to any business and how you manage your publicity and your relationship with the media is critical to the success of your business. Journalists hold the key to a world of opportunities for your organisation. Whilst both parties benefit from your interaction with the media, there are several hints and tips available to make sure you get the most out of your time in front of the camera (and avoid any damaging faux pas)
Prepare It may be a cliché but nothing could be truer in this case. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail when it comes to media relations. Find out as much as you can before any interview about the reporter, the media outlet and the audience of that outlet. Anticipate what you may be asked in advance or if possible agree with the reporter on the topic of your interview. This will allow you to better prepare any answers to the questions.
Think Before You Speak Part of preparing is so that you decide clearly on what you are going to say. Outline beforehand what message you wish to get across, what tone you wish to convey and what ultimately you want out of this interview. Be clear on what you do and don’t want to say. Provided you stick to your guns than you should maintain control of the conversation and as a consequence what then goes out to the public. Think clearly about each answer before you respond. There is no such thing as off the record so make sure that everything you say you are completely comfortable with reaching the general public. If you are faced with a leading or probing question a simple “no comment” is better than saying something you would regret in the future.
Use Layman’s Terms Be sure and get your message across in as simple terms as possible. Avoid any confusing jargon or marketing speak which could be misunderstood or misrepresented. Similarly try not to ramble incoherently or use long winded questions. Keep your message clear and concise, giving the audience the best opportunity to fully understand and engage with what you have to say.
Journalists Work On Deadline In the fast paced world of media, everything is done to a deadline. Whilst requests for interviews may come with little time to prepare it is best practice for you to adhere to any deadlines. Editorial interviews are great opportunities and failure to meet the requirements will likely cause you to lose out on the publicity to a competitor.
What’s Your Message? You must decide on what message you wish to convey though the media. Outline clear and concise points which you wish to make and make sure that they feature. Manipulate and lead the questions to fit your own agenda (the journalist will likely have their own one), making sure the style and flow of the conversation ensures you are able to get your key points across frequently.
Time Is Of the Essence In a similar way to adhering to deadlines, make sure you always provide everything which is asked of you from a reporter. A small act of goodwill early on can lead to highly trusting and positive relationships being built allowing you to gain invaluable publicity in the future.
Don’t Let Reporters Put Wordsin Your Mouth It’s all well and good getting your message across, but if it is not in the tone or style that you want it to be in, than it can be very easily misconstrued or spun in to something completely different (often through no fault of either party). Be very clear as to what you mean by what you are saying and it will be simpler for the reporter to paint the right picture to their audience.
Practice the Pause If you’ve said what you have to say – stop! Journalists will often pause after you finish talking to check if that is all you have to say. Avoid taking this as a sign to continue talking and end up rambling in to a topic of conversation far away from your intentions.
There Is No Such Thing As Off theRecord You must remember that there is no such thing as “off the record”. Journalists are under no moral or legal obligation to not report what you say and it would be naïve for you to expect otherwise. If you don’t want anyone else to hear it – why would you say it? It’s that simple really.
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