There are some high-profile people, companies and “tweeters” that are prolific news makers; we see their names, thoughts and actions mentioned in news articles or on television news channels on a regular basis.
For most other businesses, getting media attention is not a common occurrence, so when you get an opportunity to be in the public eye you want to make the most of it. If you are asked to be interviewed on a controversial or potentially negative topic, it’s even more critical to correctly prepare so you don’t tarnish your image or that of your brand or company.
At Evolution we work hard to gain positive, earned media opportunities for our clients. Sometimes they come up when you’re least expecting them, so ideally, you’re prepared to take advantage of the media spotlight when it shines on you.
While we recommend sitting down to talk with us about all the different strategies you can use to make the most of your media moment, here are some important tips to keep in mind before you talk with the media.
Consider: is the interview is worth doing?
In most cases it is. (You’ve heard the saying there’s no such things as bad press.) However, if there’s a concern that the interview could have a negative impact for you or your company you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons. There are news outlets that have a reputation for being more inflammatory, controversial or “on the fringe.” Some of these might only be reaching out to get a quote to feed controversy or fill the negative angle. If that’s the case, you may want to politely decline. On the other hand, if a reputable media organization is asking for comment, even on a controversial topic, it is probably worth doing the interview. Just make sure you do your homework and are fully prepared so you can be in control of the interview.
What are the key messages that you want to get across?
Before you go into the interview ask yourself “what is the main message I want to get across?” Keep this point top of mind so it comes to you easily. That way if the reporter doesn’t directly ask a question for you to give your message, you can find a way to weave it into your answer to another question.
Don’t throw yourself to the wolves.
In other words, make sure you’re the right person to do the interview. Yes, it’s often a good idea to capitalize on a media opportunity, IF it’s a subject you feel comfortable discussing. If you’re asked to discuss a topic that you really don’t have much expertise on, you may want to pass, OR better yet, find the person within your organization/company that can discuss the topic with wisdom and confidence. You’re only setting yourself up for failure or embarrassment if you cannot answer the reporter’s questions with knowledge and poise.
Anticipate the questions.
If the reporter wants you to talk about a certain topic you can generally guess in advance the questions he or she will ask. You should anticipate the questions and how you want to answer them. For example, a neurosurgeon being interviewed about a treatment for Parkinson’s should plan to talk about what the treatment entails, what makes it unique/successful and which patients might benefit from the procedure.
In addition, the surgeon should be prepared to talk about things that may not be directly related to that topic. For example, the world-famous singer, Neil Diamond was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Is this a therapy that might help him?
It’s also very common for a reporter at the end of the interview to ask, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” This is your opportunity to fit in important details that didn’t get addressed, or reiterate your key message/messages. You may say it differently or even better this time around.
Know that the reporter may stray off topic
Keep in mind a reporter is coming to you because you’re an expert in your field. While they will want to interview you about a certain topic they often venture into other territory or current events. Say for example you’re a mental health professional and the interview is on the importance of getting consistent treatment and sometimes medication for a patient’s therapy.
In this case, you should keep in mind that there is a lot of discussion right now about mental health, guns and school shootings. You should be prepared to discuss related and sometimes controversial topics. Discuss the appropriate response with your team or colleagues. If you genuinely don’t have a knowledgeable answer, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “That’s a great question… but I don’t think I’m the right person to answer that.” If you anticipate the hard questions and are prepared with a response you will not only feel more confident in the interview, you will appear more credible, professional and transparent.
Never rush into a media interview. Always take a few moments to center yourself. This should include mentally reviewing your key messages. I don’t suggest memorizing as it might trip you up if you don’t say everything exactly as you practiced.
Instead, you need to trust yourself. Know that you are an expert in your field and you truly know the material, otherwise you wouldn’t be asked for the interview. Then you need to get centered and focused. A great way to do this is by taking several deep, calming breaths. Some people may choose to pray or meditate. Do whatever you need to connect to that confidence within you.
It is critical to be present and focused in the interview. Your confidence will shine through, and even if the back and forth gets tense, as long as you appear calm and in control… your message will be more believable.