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Interviews with reporters

Public relations professionals handle a lot. One of the things they do most is talk and interact with the media.

In his article about interacting with the media, Kevin Sangsland said “When dealing with the media, the quality of your interview is the currency of your reputation.” And it’s true — one bad interview could mean bad news for your company or client. Sangsland offered 6 great tips for interacting with the media, and we think everyone should take note.

1. Be available
When a story is breaking, it is those sources that are available that get heard, so you want to make sure you’re always available for media inquires.
You must also keep in mind the nature of the business that reporters are in. They will most likely, if not definitely, be working on a deadline. Show up for interviews on time and return phone calls as soon as possible. Make sure you’re doing your job so they can do theirs.

2. Prepare for the interview
If you can, try to get as much clarification as possible on the story angle and question set. This won’t always be possible, but if you can, it helps a lot. If the reporter doesn’t have a list of questions or doesn’t care to share them in advance with you, make a list of likely questions and how you want to respond to them. It’s also good to forward along any information you might have on file if the reporter is asking general or basic questions about your company. Supplying a reporter with an info sheet can really help him or her to develop a story, and will save you time with the interview by getting preliminary questions out of the way.

3. Maintain the appropriate attitude during the interview
Always keep a professional state of mind, even if you’ve built a certain rapport with reporters. Be honest with reporters. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, and tell them you will get back to them with the answer post-interview. Trying to wing it could end up making you look bad. Always be as responsive as possible,and remember that sometimes your tone can dictate the tone of the article.

4. Focus on the story you need to tell; be credible and honest
Use declarative statements followed by supporting comments. Check out other stories the reporter has written and see what types of quotes he or she tends to incorporate in article. That way, you’ll know what sort of depth they’re looking for. Don’t overtalk the question. Reporters won’t use everything you say, and sometimes there is no need to elaborate. Pause after a sentence or two, and if a reporter needs more clarification, they will ask for it. Also, if you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. It’s best to be absolutely clear so things aren’t misconstrued.

5. Know the basic rules of engagement
Never respond with “no comment.” This insinuates that you have something to hide, which will make you look bad and cause the reporter to start digging around more to find out what it is. If you can’t answer a question because it involves proprietary information, say so. Be prepared for the tougher questions you know might be asked about a particular issue and have statements planned beforehand. Avoid making comments “off the record.” If a reporter can’t use the information you’re telling them, there is no need to say it. And even though it crosses ethical boundaries on the reporter’s part, it could still end up getting published. Never ask to see a story before it’s published. This is more an issue of etiquette, but it’s rude to the reporter and makes you seem inexperienced. Instead, tell them you’d be more than happy to answer any followup questions or help fact check as the story is being produced.

6. Be interesting and engaging, not controversial
Reporters love a good anecdote. It can help them develop a great lede (beginning of a story), or it can add a lot to a story that needs a little pizazz. Also, avoid making negative comments about anything. Respond to questions regarding the competition, changes or events in the market and other potentially controversial issues neutrally.

If you need public relations training, call Rivers Agency.


(Comments are closed)
  1. By Araceli,
    June 8, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

    And now to get ready for my interview LOL! No, really though, great advice. Now I know who to call if I need anymore advice or training for public relations.

  2. By Kristina,
    June 16, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

    Great blog post! I think companies too often under estimate the power of the media. The media can help you as easily as it can hurt you. The truth of the matter is media can make or break your business. Some companies are too quick to lash out at the media but that’s only going to harm their company.

    I definitely recommend think companies should receive PR training before interacting with the media on any pressing matters. I can vouch that Rivers Agency is definitely well qualified to provide such advice! They interact with the media daily and regularly and have built many valuable connections.

    Like the old cliche says “think before you speak”–especially with the media!

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