Every business owner can benefit from positive publicity. A story on TV, radio or in a newspaper can be seen as a powerful “third party endorsement” and help attract new clients and customers. But many businesses shy away from chasing publicity for a number of reasons. One, they don’t know how to approach newsrooms to “pitch” their story and two, they don’t know what to expect or how to handle an interview with a journalist, never mind any tough or tricky questions that might come up.
Rather than avoid publicity, businesses should be taking pro-active steps to prepare themselves to be news ready. The first step is identifying a spokesperson. For many businesses, it is a worthwhile investment to enrol the owner or key managers in media training courses so they learn interview and presentation skills so that they’re ready to face cameras and questions.
Even CEOs and politicians are professionally media trained, it’s just that the general public never see it.
It is a learned skill. What to say, what not to say and how to say it. A good TV or radio journalist will help you to try to make you as comfortable as possible if you say you are nervous but it is always so much better to be prepared.
Do’s and Don’ts to giving answers in interviews:
- Always provide comment. By providing comment, you’re making sure the public is hearing your side.
- Make sure you’re prepared. Ask the journalist lots of questions. What program or publication will my comments appear in? What’s the angle of the story? Who else is being interviewed?
- Respect the reporter’s deadline. Reporters are even more time poor than they used to be. If you work with the reporter you may find they’ll be more willing to highlight your key messages.
- Provide background information. Talk to the media about what has occurred. This helps their story and yours. Make sure you give them accurate facts to ensure a fair report
- Identify your key messages and practice them. Remember your key messages and make sure you stick to them. It is your protection to not being caught off guard or off topic.
- Present in a calm, confident, and concise manner. This can be hard to do. However, the more prepared you are the better. If you’re not feeling confident, I’d suggest media training.
- Dress appropriately. This seems like a given, but so many times I’ve had spokespeople answering questions in distracting patterns or un-ironed shirts.
- Always thank the reporter for their time. It’s just nice manners. Plus, it keeps everyone happy.
- Use interview techniques to manage hostile or tricky questions. Tackling the tough questions can be difficult.
- Say “no comment”. Please don’t say “no comment”. It’s honestly the worst thing you can do in a crisis situation. It makes you and your brand look like you have something to hide.
- Be hostile or argumentative. Remember how I said to present in a calm and confident manner? Being hostile or argumentative can make you look nervous and guilty.
- Speculation may lead you to say something that is untrue or harmful to your reputation. It’s best just to avoid forming theories you don’t have evidence to support.
- Be led by the journalist’s agenda. Learn to protect yourself from going off message. Lie or give false statistics. Giving a false report of facts not only taints a fair report being written or aired, but it makes you and your company look bad when the truth comes out.