Media Interview Tips – Getting the Party Started
Updated February 2024 – You’ve done your research, you created an amazing pitch, you reached out to countless QWOTED opportunities, and you finally scored an interview, CONGRATULATIONS! Don’t celebrate just yet! I’m sure that’s not what you wanted to hear, but to score your dream headline, there is a lot of prep work to be done before “the big day”. If done right your coverage headline can be exactly what you want it to be, but there are things that you should definitely know before going into that coveted interview. Let’s take a look at five of The Silver Telegram’s favorite media interview tips.
Your connection with the media should be mutually beneficial relationship. You are not doing them any favors (trust us!), but neither are you (if you have a great story). This relationship you’re creating in the best case scenario will pan out in coverage, but in the worst case scenario, should pan out into a longer-term collaboration.
Know your story
Know what you want to say about this conversation. Know what you want out of it. The best way is to create your dream headline and craft 5-10 key talking points behind that story headline for this conversation. It should match up with what you pitched them in the first place.
Stack your chips and provide resources
Good PR form is to be a resource for the media. Don’t just give them your story, but give them credibility and validation so that it makes it easier for the writer to pitch and place it with their editors. If you have amazing customers, hook them up with a follow-up conversation. If you have statistics, provide them with credible research to make the story most compelling. Always solve an industry problem, that’s the fastest way to get published.
Follow up, follow up, follow up
The process doesn’t end with the end of a conversation, it ends with a piece of coverage. Make sure that you follow up. Every time you follow up to provide a resource, a new piece of information, check in to see how their day is going. This is where most startups fail in the PR process, however, it’s also the most critical process in securing coverage. Just like all of us, we get buried and reminders are quite valuable.
VERY IMPORTANT: Nothing is “Off the Record“
Media interviews are often quite tricky to navigate, especially if you haven’t done many before. When you’re talking about conversations with the media, you have to be just as careful. Many times when we set up media tours or prepare for trade shows, we meet the media for meals or coffee. Despite the setting being more casual, the meeting is still one for information sharing and collecting, something you should always remember.
When speaking to the media (or in public settings), always remember:
Nothing is “Off the Record” – Very few things said in public are “off the record”. Just as easily as you say something, that sentence can be misconstrued. When speaking in public, establish and practice your key messaging points so that you know you say it right and the same way every time.
Don’t say anything you don’t feel comfortable seeing in print – The party line for the “Should I mention or say this?” question is: If you aren’t 100% certain that you want to see it in print, then it shouldn’t come out of your mouth. You can always add to the conversation, but it is very difficult to take things back.
The media will ask you questions you don’t have to answer – It is the job of the media to get answers. They often ask questions that they know that they won’t get the answer to, hoping that you may reveal something or make a mistake. Always make sure to think about the questions before answering. Do you really want to make a comment? If not, there is no problem in saying that you don’t want to answer a question. They expect that to happen sometimes. It will not ruin your relationships to be careful of what you say.
The media most likely won’t show you what they write before they print – I get executives asking me all the time if the reporter will send the story for “review” before it is published. The reporter has no obligation to share what they have written with you before it’s published. Which is even more reason to make sure the messages you are delivering are being conveyed properly. There are times, if reporters are very friendly or they need to check facts that they will have you review the article or certain facts on the article to confirm they got it right. That isn’t a typical practice, so you shouldn’t expect or even ask that from the reporter.
Backtracking doesn’t work – If an article prints and the facts are correct, the likelihood of you getting a change in quotes or the final article are slim to none. Typically, a reporter will only change an article if there is a factual inaccuracy. Again, another reason to make sure you are saying what you want. I often advise companies to stay away from mentioning the competition, unless it’s directly related and stay within their value proposition factual advantages, and topic expertise.
All this said, be careful what you say in both formal interviews and casual environments (like networking or coffee meetings). You and your team should communicate your messages and set what you are allowed to share publicly and what you MUST stay away from. Anything said in public environments can and will be picked up, especially with social media today. If you don’t want to be misquoted or misheard, make sure you know what you can and cannot say and how you want the brand to be presented before you speak in public.
There are no guarantees in media
There are many reasons why your story may not get covered. Timing, editorial approvals, other breaking news. If it didn’t happen just yet, don’t worry, all is not lost. Regroup in a couple of weeks and start a conversation on how you can make the content and story relevant again. Remember when you were following up? Were you providing new info and resources? Build your story to a point where it can’t be ignored.
Always remember that it is not over until you see that beautiful headline online or in print, or if you’re lucky…both. Good luck! If you need some additional media interview tips, feel free to schedule a complimentary call with the PR pros at The Silver Telegram.