Interview Tips for PR People


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- A summary of tips from Centennial College Teacher Barry Waite for Public Relations students.

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  • (That’s right – An army of tomorrow’s spokespersons walk among us in these very halls !) So right here is the material that young PR workers in training are getting at Centennial College. It’s the preparation they are being given to deal with us!
  • This is a list of the important questions that PR people have to ask every journalist before they can be comfortable proceeding with an interview. Who are you? What is your story? What would you like from us? What specific information are you looking for? What is your deadline? When do you want the interview? What is your format? Can I get back to you...
  • We’ve all heard these questions a few times by now.
  • According to Barry, a spokesperon wont be comfortable in an interview if they don’t know their material. As we heard from our sources, they’re likely to ask you to call back if they are not prepared for your questions.
  • So if a journalist is very good at establishing rapport, sometimes we can charm a PR person into helping us. Mclaughlin includes that in his advice in the textbook, on page 56. This is Barry’s warning to his young PR students not to be charmed and distracted, and remember their job is to represent the company and convey it in a good light. (As we heard from David Jones.)
  • In the same way journalists are told to be pleasant and polite as much as possible, Barry offers this nice advice that ensures the relationship is constructive, and doesn’t get antagonistic. But it also shows that there is a natural tension or a power struggle between journalists and PR people sometimes. There’s no point in fighting with anyone. If a PR person is really unhelpful just go elsewhere.
  • Euguene mentioned that some PR people completely ignore the questions that they’re being asked, and just stick to their message. We know that as interviewers, we’re supposed to listen and be engaged in the conversation. A good PR person will pay you the same respect. If they don’t, they’re doing a bad job, and you can tell them. David Rider said don’t be afraid to call a PR person out for being unhelpful.
  • PR People are comfortable addressing bad news. Euguene, Kevin Carrington and Kevin Beaulieu all were quite frank about this. But they want to do it in the way that works for them and their company. As journalists, the best bet for a successful conversation with a PR person is to accept their message and they way they would like to tell their message. Keep them on the record. You’re not going to convince them to speak to a different angle. You’re going to have to go elsewhere for that.
  • So I don’t know if you noticed how sweet and polite Chris Cooke was about journalists frustrating his efforts to do his job in the video. This is classic PR behaviour, what we call the “soft sell.” Bringing emotion, using a visual, acting like an authority - these are all part of the professional ‘game’ that PR people have to play. Using key messages was a point that Eugene stressed heavily. That takes us to Barry’s big point: The…
  • So we all know this one. The SOCO is the “line” that the PR person wants to stick to. This is the message they are going to try to convey in as many ways as they can throughout the conversation. So listen for it; its good to be aware of. Here’s Barry’s explanation of the SOCO” You have lots of potential messages to share about your organization, product, campaign etc. In a media interview, however, your time is limited, often to mere seconds – it is therefore essential that you know what you want to communicate, and what your supporting messages will be What message do you want to communicate? (Tell your story and/or why audiences should care, in three sentences or less.) What is your single most important communications objectives? (the quotes/examples/anecdotes you want media to report) How do you want your message to impact on others? (what action do you want your audience/affected parties to take) In preparing for an interview, the first and most critical thing to determine is what’s your SOCO! Question for the class – Why do you think it would be helpful to identify the “SOCO?” How will that affect your interview strategy?
  • You should always answer a journalist’s question, but don’t feel you have to limit your response to their exact question. Don’t wait for an invitation to share your good news. It may never come. It’s up to you to introduce interesting, relevant and positive information, case studies and facts into the conversation at every opportunity.
  • Flagging is an effective technique that allows you to put more emphasis on certain points that support your Key Messages. Flagging phrases: “This is the most important point…” “Our entire focus and goal is…” “The big news is…” “Let me make this very clear…”
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard one of these: Flagging phrases: “This is the most important point…” “Our entire focus and goal is…” “The big news is…” “Let me make this very clear…”
  • When a journalists ask ‘loaded’ multiple choice questions, seize the opportunity to refocus the question by ‘cherry picking’ the question that offers the best lead-in to your Key Messages. So journalists – this is a reason to make sure you don’t ask double-barreled questions!
  • BE PREPARED Know your facts and be up-to-date on any relevant research or government policies that could come up in the interview Know what the journalist expects you to speak about PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT! REMEMBER, IT’S A CONVERSATION Speak in complete sentences; it’s more natural and helps ensure you won’t be taken out of context Make it as personal as possible – remember the audience and the opportunity to make a connection between them and you Establish your own pace and don’t be rushed (i.e. don’t speak too quickly!) LISTEN CAREFULLY!
  • Interview Tips for PR People

    1. 1. Interviewing Tips for Spokespersons From Barry Waite Professor and Program Coordinator for Corporate Communications and Public Relations
    2. 2. at Centennial College!
    3. 3. <ul><li>Failure #1: Forgetting to don’t ask! </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><ul><li>“ Who are you?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ What is your story?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ What would you like from us?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ What specific information are you looking for?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ What is your deadline?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ When do you want the interview?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ What is your format?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Can I get back to you...” </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>Failure #2: Being Unprepared </li></ul><ul><li>“ Know your material. Practice, practice practice!” </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>Failure #3: Forgetting Why You are Doing the Interview </li></ul><ul><li>“ Keep your perspective.” </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>Failure #4: Don’t Fight for Control </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’ll only get worse.” </li></ul>
    8. 8. <ul><li>Failure #5: Don’t be too formulaic </li></ul><ul><li>“ You‘ll just look stupid.” </li></ul>
    9. 9. Barry’s Basic Interview Guidelines <ul><li>Be Accessible </li></ul><ul><li>Be Open and Frank </li></ul><ul><li>Address Bad News </li></ul><ul><li>Be On the Record </li></ul><ul><li>Call Back If Necessary </li></ul><ul><li>Have Fun </li></ul>
    10. 10. Barry’s Tips for a Good Interview <ul><li>Be accurate </li></ul><ul><li>Act like an authority </li></ul><ul><li>Present a case </li></ul><ul><li>Bring emotion relevant to the issue </li></ul><ul><li>Use a visual </li></ul><ul><li>Make a good physical presentation </li></ul><ul><li>Use your key messages </li></ul>
    11. 11. SOCO Single Overriding Communications Objective
    12. 12. Barry’s Trick’s of the Trade <ul><li>These are some of the weapons in the PR person’s arsenal. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn them, listen for them, so that you can get around them if you need to. </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>Interview Tool #1 : Bridging </li></ul>“… don’t feel you have to limit your response to their exact question. Don’t wait for an invitation to share your good news. It may never come.”
    14. 14. <ul><li>Interview Tool #2: Flagging </li></ul>“ … an effective technique that allows you to put emphasis on points that support your Key Messages.”
    15. 15. Flagging Phrases <ul><li>“ This is the most important point…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Our entire focus and goal is…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The big news is…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Let me make this very clear…” </li></ul>
    16. 16. <ul><li>Interview Tool #3: Cherry Picking </li></ul>“… refocus the question by ‘cherry picking’ the question that offers the best lead-in to your Key Messages.”
    17. 17. SOME DOs and DON’Ts <ul><li>DO DON’T </li></ul><ul><li>Tell the truth. Speculate </li></ul><ul><li>Be available for comment Give Excuses </li></ul><ul><li>Release confirmed facts Overstate or exaggerate </li></ul><ul><li>Be concise Go off topic </li></ul><ul><li>Defuse negatives Be thrown by hostile questions </li></ul><ul><li>Correct fallacies Get into arguments </li></ul><ul><li>Remain calm Forget your key objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Provide updates Reveal confidential information </li></ul><ul><li>Be honourable Place blame </li></ul><ul><li>Use personal examples Say ‘no comment’ </li></ul><ul><li>Answer directly Go off the record </li></ul><ul><li>Be available for follow-up Be afraid of the media </li></ul>