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Meeting the Media: How to Prepare

September 12, 2013

Today’s post is courtesy of Julie Cunningham, an account manager at Rhino Public Relations. Questions or comments? Julie can be reached at Julie@rhinopr.com or on Twitter at @RhinoPR_Julie.

microphoneYour marketing department is jumping for joy – but you’re already feeling jumpy. An A/E/C reporter is interested in talking to you about your project. And with your boss hoping that more media coverage will lead to more business, the pressure is mounting.

Here are my top tips for preparing yourself and other members of your technical staff for a media interview (and some of them might surprise you).

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

  • Get to know the publication or program, the interview format and the audience

This may seem obvious, but doing some light homework can put you in the right frame of mind and help establish the right voice for the interview – and hopefully, put you more at ease.

  • Think about why your work in A/E/C would appeal to the audience of this publication or program

Even if the publication is a technical journal, take a step back and think about your key messages. Why is your project interesting? What problems did you solve? What’s the most important thing you hope to convey about your work? And can you boil it down to a few points?

  • Questions, Questions, Questions

Try to anticipate what the reporter might ask you, and then jot it down. Some A/E/C reporters will provide questions in advance of an interview, but I hesitate to ask for them on behalf of my clients. You should know your project and what tough material you might be asked about. Additionally, think long and hard about sending unsolicited, suggested questions to a member of the media. You run the risk of angering them by implying they don’t know how to do their job.

DURING THE INTERVIEW

  • Keep your answers short

Shorter answers are always better than long-winded ones. Most reporters aren’t shy. If they have a follow-up question on anything you’ve said, they’ll ask.

  • View it as a conversation, not an interrogation

During my 10 years of producing TV news, the best guests were the ones who did their interview preparation ahead of time and came to the studio relaxed and ready for a conversation with the anchor. If you find yourself on TV, talk to the person rather than the camera. Similarly, for print and radio interviews, try to forget the pen or mic is between you and the reporter.

  • Explain the challenges and the solutions

This is what a reporter wants to cover, and it’s what sets your story apart from similar projects in the marketplace. Explain how your company’s expertise came into play in solving any problems, and why the client turned to you for help.

  • Don’t sit back and above all else, don’t lie

If a reporter says something negative, frame the reply with a positive. If something stated by the interviewer is slightly off, don’t just assume they’ll get it right in the article. You can gently correct them so they don’t have to issue a correction later. If you don’t know the answer to a question or feel you might be stretching the truth a bit, don’t fake it. Talk about what you do know.

  • Take a deep breath and smile 

It sounds simplistic, but it can make a world of difference in your body language and the words coming out of your mouth, and ultimately, onto the page.

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