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The Ideas Distillery
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How to handle the media – Part 2

A while ago we posted the article How business should handle the media. Now we look at the second part of this article (part 3 will be posted soon).


If you examine news stories, you will find that news is:


  • Dramatic

  • Topical

  • Specific with details, especially numbers; and

  • Relevant to the media’s audiences


You also need to remember that news is competitive. Editors and news directors report that for every story published and broadcast, at least another 10 are discarded. In some major national and city media, as few as one in a hundred available stories are selected.


Your news and comments have to compete to ‘get a run’ at the expense of other material. You can increase the competitiveness of your information by ensuring your statements to the media contain as many of the above criteria as possible. Your news and statements may not involve conflict or drama – indeed, you may not want them to – but you should try to score at least three out of four to be newsworthy.


When it comes to your interview, you need to consider all the possible options. For example, if the interview is for TV and will take place at your premises, consider backdrops that prominently feature your logo. Also, think about whether you want to be interviewed in an area that is bustling with people (to perhaps demonstrate the vibrancy of a firm) or whether you would prefer a quieter location (to imply calm and sobriety).


As an interviewee, you are entitled to some basic information, including:


  • What station/programme is your interviewer from?

  • What sort of programme is it?

  • When is it going out?

  • Who watches it?

  • Who else is taking part and what views do the hold?

  • What question areas do they want to discuss?

  • Who with and how long?

  • Is it live or pre-recorded?


While this may seem like a fairly extensive checklist to consider, just relax – if you can recall nothing else when it comes to the crunch, just remember that the key to a good interview is largely down to good preparation.


The interview itself is no time for original thought – the last thing you want is to be caught out by a question that startles you. The best interviews are carefully planned and rehearsed. Think about this when considering a candidate for the role of spokesperson. Like any good presentation, research shows that content accounts for just 7%. The impact is in the voice (38%) and, for TV, the looks 55%.


Company spokespeople often naively face media interviews ill-equipped for the dynamic communication opportunity that media interviews provide. Some basic tips and training can equip you to get your points across in an interview and minimise misreporting and misquoting.


Your first rule of thumb is to develop two or three key messages. Then:


  • Prepare a Q&A sheet. Brainstorm any nasty Q’s

  • Assess the reaction of the target audience

  • Select lively examples to buttress your case

  • Arm yourself with several fascinating facts / statistics about your business

  • Practice by doing a dry run

  • Don’t ‘learn’ the Q&A sheet as this will make you sound too scripted.


Journalists are trained to ask probing and sometimes difficult questions. When you talk to the media, your company’s reputation, sales of your product or service, your success or failure could depend on how you perform and how the interview turns out. Most interviews will result in only a short ‘grab’ of around 30 seconds or less of what you say.


A leading radio or TV show can expose your company or organisation and your products or services to an audience of thousands or even millions. Similarly, major circulation newspapers and magazines reach large segments of your market or stakeholders. Potential viewers, listeners or readers may include government officials, regulatory bodies, environmentalists, consumer organisations, your own staff and your competitors.


A successful interview is about achieving your objectives. You don’t just want the journalist to go away happy with a story: you want to get your message across and present your point of view.


There are three principal reasons why interviews fail in terms of communicating what an interviewee wants to say:


  • Attitude

  • An imbalance of knowledge

  • Lack of preparation.


This being the case, consider the following useful tips for media interview handling skills. Before the interview or at the studio most people panic and forget everything they are meant to say, so:


  • Arrive early

  • Keep distractions and stress low

  • Take a colleague

  • Check out any last minute changes to the item

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Think about clothing, appearance and make-up

  • (If possible) meet the interviewer beforehand

  • Say nothing ‘off the record’

  • Treat all cameras and mikes as being on


With TV interviews, time is the one thing you don’t have in an interview as illustrated by the following equation of ‘RelaTVty’:


Number of contributors divided by 2 = Your On-Air Contribution


Divide by 2 to allow for the interviewer’s introduction, questions and summary. So if you are invited to a 4-minute live debate with three others, you’ll have about 30 seconds to communicate your key points.




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