Sarah Palin, Tom Cruise, Kevin Rudd and George Bush. What do all of these prominent figures have in common? Disastrous media interviews. From losing tempers to talking total gibberish, this is a cohort you don’t want to be part of!
So how do you avoid this list?
Talking to the media is never an easy ride, so we’ve compiled our top tips and tricks to get you through the process.
Effective media engagement can provide your business with a multitude of opportunities. However, this is best achieved when you have an understanding of how the media works and what they actually do.
What exactly do journalists do? To put it simply, they create news to sell newspaper, magazine or TV advertising. They look to ‘uncover’ stories which they believe to be of interest or importance. Journalists (at least the vast majority) do not wish to simply re tell your story to their readers or viewers. They want stories that haven’t been told yet, the real nitty gritty or the hidden truth.
So why should we engage them? The media provides opportunities to:
- Present your opinion and point of view
- Build your brand and organisational profile
- Inform customers or stakeholders on important issues or up coming events
- Increase your reach and message frequency
- Maintain message credibility
Rules and general housekeeping
Know what the media want from you. Want your story to be written? Well, help the journalist help you, by ensuring the information you provide is current and most importantly, new. You’re more likely to have a journalist interested in your story idea by following some basic rules.
- Provide ‘newsworthy’ information – no promotional fluff! Fluff goes straight to the bin.
- Do your research. Know the audience of your journalist and the theme or angle of the publication they write for.
- Be accurate, always. Inaccurate information can make your organisation or the person promoting the info look careless and sloppy.
- Be honest and reliable – don’t think people won’t uncover misleading information or half truths. They always do.
Know your audience
How can you effectively communicate if you don’t know who you are really talking to? Its important to always keep your intended audience in mind.
What do they need to know? What is important to them? What do you want them to think? And finally, what do you want them do to? Providing a call to action is key to public engagement.
What messages are you trying to send?
Ensure you have your key messages. Key messages play a fundamental role in addressing the issues at hand and help shape what the audience thinks about you or your organisation.
The crux of a key message is its claim- facts and examples. Ask yourself, why should your audience believe you?
Be ready for tricky questions. More than likely, they will be asked.
The best way to avoid trouble is to understand the rules of the game. You do not have to answer every question put to you. You’re there to simply tell your story.
- Preparation is essential. Walking blindly into an interview is asking for trouble.
- Don’t be afraid to take your time when answering questions. Always have water at hand
- Remain calm – don’t lose your cool. A temper tantrum makes for great reporting and even better visuals.
- You are representing your brand and business. Be respectful. Although you may come across difficult journalists, a little respect goes a long way.
- There is no such thing as ‘off the record’ or ‘general questions’. You may be speaking with one person, but anything you say could be later read or watched by millions of other people.
- Respond to negative questions with positive answers.
- Keep it simple stupid. It may be a tired expression, but it is extremely relevant. Do not over complicate responses or use language you or your audience may not be familiar with. At the end of the day, its crucial that your audience actually understands the information you’re providing!
Never respond with ‘no comment’. This is a sure fire way to lead journalists into thinking you or your organisation have something to hide. They will find out what it is, but worse than that it could leave your audience thinking you’re either guilty or arrogant, which is probably not the impression you were looking for.
For more information regarding media interviews, check out our previous post “10 tips to ace your media interview.”
Of course, if you’d like to get personalised advice on media training, you can give us a call on (02) 9994 8005 or drop us a note.