Aubia Communications

Extra! Extra! Read all about it: How to achieve successful media relations

In September, the Aubia Communications Blog will focus on media relations. I’ll start with tips on conducting successful media interviews and follow up with how to use key messages and pitch the media.

At some point, all organizations will face interaction with the media. It could be as intimate as the local hometown newspaper to as large as an international news broadcast. Whatever the scenario, it’s important to work with the media to reach your target audience with your story.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it: How to achieve successful media relationsWorking with the media

When conducting media interviews, keep in mind the reporter is there to get the story, but you’re there to speak with your target audience. It’s a give-and-take relationship with the reporter – he needs you for the information to complete the story and you need him to get your story out. Respect that relationship and you’ll have a much-valued media partner; don’t respect it and you’ll have a worst enemy with a megaphone.

How do you build and nurture that kind of valued relationship with a journalist?

1) Maximum disclosure, minimum delay

A term from my Defense Information School days, it means give as much information to the reporter as soon as you can. As much as possible, keep the media updated on developments. It’s much better that you are releasing the information than a non-affiliated source doing it for you. If you leave a vacuum, it will be filled by someone.

2) Be honest

No matter what, don’t lie. It will always come back to haunt you. Lies can destroy any credibility you’ve built with reporters, and they will stop covering you if you’re caught. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. Don’t make up an answer. Let the reporter know you’ll get back to him later with the information.

3) Say “no” to “no comment”

Saying “no comment” only does two things: first, it makes you look guilty. It’s the equivalent of saying “I have the information, but I’m hiding it from you.” Second, you completely give up any management of your own story and grant the reporter permission to find out the facts from any other source. If you can’t disclose something to the media at that time, explain why you can’t with details on when you can update the information.

4) Stay in touch

Don’t just contact a reporter when you have a good news story. Keep in touch with story ideas on a consistent basis, including when the news may not be so good. If you get out ahead of a potentially negative story, not only do you gain respect with the reporter for being upfront about it, but you also have the chance to shape the story. Again, it’s always better to comment on your business instead of letting other sources fill the vacuum.

5) Be prepared

Just as you wouldn’t wing an important presentation at work, you can’t expect to wing media interviews. The reporter is speaking to you about a particular subject because you are expected to be the subject matter expert. Walking into an interview, you should already know what the topic is about, who the reporter is and what his style is, and the media format (print, radio, television, blogger, etc.) of the interview. Bring materials with you to the interview that might help better explain the subject (visuals are great backups, especially for television).

Before the interview, practice expected questions and answers. Even though it’s not a normal or polite business practice to ask for the questions ahead of time, your Public Relations consultant can draft a list of expected questions and appropriate answers to rehearse.  Learn as much as you can about how the reporter interviews. Review current events and be prepared to comment on how those affect the subject of the interview.

Down to basics

As you’re developing these good working relationships with media members, you’ll also want to keep in mind some fundamental techniques in the interview process.

1) Print Interviews

Personally, I find print interviews to be the most relaxed. When speaking with reporters who work for newspapers, magazines and other print outlets, you can answer in more detail and length. It’s fine to refer to notes during the interview. You have more time to think about your response before saying it. Have a conversation with the reporter, explain the details, and tell your story.

2) Camera Interviews

A bit more structured, camera interviews are all about the visual. To not distract from your message, make sure your appearance is appropriate for the outlet. You wouldn’t go on the Today show in your Friday night club outfit or on a local cable talk show about fishing in a business suit. Find out what frame the camera operator is shooting you at – usually from mid-torso to a few inches above your head. If you’re like me and couldn’t talk if someone tied your hands down, be aware of the frame. You don’t want to have your hands coming up from nowhere, but don’t try to hold them down, either. Be natural and comfortable, but try to keep your hand movements below the waist. If you are sitting, lean forward. This makes you appear more engaged than sitting back in the chair. If there is a reporter and a camera operator, look directly at the reporter – have a conversation with him. If it’s just a camera operator, look directly at the camera.

For camera interviews, you should always know if you’re going live or is it taped for a later broadcast. If you are being taped for later, don’t be afraid to ask for a redo if you stumble.  You need to keep responses shorter (we’ll talk about sound bites next week) as they will be edited to fit the format of a television broadcast, podcast or other visual outlet.

3) Radio Interviews

As camera interviews are all about the visual, radio interviews are all about the voice. The No. 1 thing to remember in radio is voice tone. If you sound drab and boring, the listener is going to change the channel. If you sound engaging and interesting, the listener will tune in. If you can stand, do so as it opens your diaphragm.

4) Live Talk Back Interviews

The most difficult to perform in my opinion, live talk back interviews can leave the interviewee looking like a deer in headlights. This interview is conducted remotely where the interviewee wears an ear piece to hear the interviewer. Left to look at a sole camera, the interviewee hears the questions and speaks directly to a camera, never seeing the interviewer. You see these interviews a lot in morning talk shows with servicemembers in combat zones or politicians at the Capitol. Once the camera operator hits the record button, be ready to go. Wait to hear from the interviewer and then treat the interview like you would a camera interview with a sole camera operator. These interviews are always live, so no redo.

5) Press Conferences

I wrote a blog post about how to conduct a successful press conference you can find by clicking here.

Take note and view some interviews. See what works and what doesn’t. Let me know if you find any great examples. After reviewing the interview process, what type of interview would be your favorite?

photo credit: jcoterhals via photo pin

Tags: ,

2 Comments to "Extra! Extra! Read all about it: How to achieve successful media relations"

  1. […] said many times that interacting with media members is vital to a business’ success. Without these developed relationships, your business is lost in […]

  2. […] type of preparation also makes for a successful media interview. From knowing the reporter’s style to being well-versed in the subject matter to having a grasp […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Public Relations Consulting

Slider by webdesign