While you likely don’t remember most of the interviews you’ve seen (or read) that went well, you probably remember at least a few that went badly. Negative outcomes in media interviews may stem from a lack of preparation and can affect the way you and/or your company is presented in the final piece.
It’s important to understand how to work with journalists so you can build a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Preparing for an interview will help you polish your messaging so you provide the journalist with the best information in a clear, concise way.
While we recommend an in-depth media training to educate your team about the ins and outs of working with the media, these tips are a good place to start.
- Do your research.
What feels like news to you may not be news to a journalist, and criteria for newsworthiness can vary from journalist to journalist. Certain topics may be newsworthy for business publications versus lifestyle publications. Before distributing a press release or reaching out to a journalist, do some research to see if that publication has covered similar stories before. If they have, then you’re likely safe to reach out with your news. If not, think about either choosing a different story angle or seeking out a different publication.
- Understand what the journalist is looking for.
Journalists often gravitate toward the following information to formulate story angles:
- New regulations
- Real statistics and data
- “Real person” stories
- Concrete facts
Journalists work on tight deadlines, and can be stressed and impatient, so do your best to supply information in a timely manner to make the journalist’s job easier.
- Don’t expect the journalist to be an expert.
Never assume that a journalist has a strong understanding of your industry. The journalist will likely not be an expert and may not have any knowledge at all going into the interview, so be sure to avoid technical jargon and provide adequate background so the journalist can gain a better understanding. Once the journalist has a grasp on the basics, you can drill down to specifics—just be patient.
- Adapt your messaging for the journalist’s audience.
As mentioned above, the journalist will likely enter the interview with little background of your industry or your company. Take care to update any prep documents or fact sheets and make sure to tailor your talking points, or key messages, to the publication’s audience.
For example, say you own a restaurant. Your messaging would be different for a publication targeting potential customers than for a trade publication read by restaurant owners. Journalists at these publications will ask very different questions due to the drastic difference in audiences. For a consumer publication, you may focus on unique dishes, atmosphere and location. For a trade publication, you could focus on an aspect of your business that is innovative, such as your business model or the implementation of the latest equipment.
Your messaging should always include a short descriptor of your company—who you are, what you do and who you serve—for any interview.
At the end of the day, prepping for a media interview is done with the goal of positioning you and your company as a go-to source for information on a certain topic. If you provide quality information to journalists in a timely manner, they will be willing to work with you (and may even reach out to you) on future occasions when they need a source for a story.