Presenter:  Susan Bennett, APR, CPRC
Susan Bennett Marketing and Media, L.C.
There are tricks to handling the media.  You can be in control.  Don’t let the media control you.

Do your homework!

  1. What do you know about the publication or program?
  2. What do you know about the reporter?  Who’s interviewing you makes a huge difference in what kind of approach you should take.
  3. Who’s the audience for that publication or program?  This will help you give appropriate answers for the audience.
  4. Prepare a fact sheet about the issue.  You are the expert, not the media.  It’s your role to teach them quickly.  Fact sheets allow you to get your message across in the way you want.
  5. What are your 1 or 2 clear messages?  That’s what you want to focus on in your interview.  Everything else can be on the fact sheet.
  6. What questions do you NOT want to be asked?  Ask yourself how would you respond to that question if they do ask.  Be prepared ahead of time.

You should prepare and practice a “quotable quote” – a short 25-30 word statement or sound bite focusing on your key message, covering your primary point in simple, straightforward language.  Their clip will be 15-20 seconds out of the entire interview, which THEY select.  Keep your answer short and concise so it won’t be taken out of context or edited inappropriately.  Use “nickel” words instead of “dollar” words — use the shortest words possible.  Practice and rehearse this.

Here are some video examples of interviews gone wrong…  (Miss Teen South Carolina pageant)  (Sarah Palin Katie Couric interview)  (Miss California on Larry King)

Preparing your CEO:

  1. Review background materials.
  2. Know what primary message you want to disseminate. (see “quotable quote” above)
  3. Discuss the topic with members of your organization to discuss viewpoints and synthesize your best approaches.
  4. Practice practice practice.  Mock interviews.
  5. If your CEO needs notes, that’s OK.
  6. Consider what your CEO or spokesperson wears.  Never wear white or black.  Wear solids, not patterns.  The best colors for men are pale blue or ecru. Glasses are fine.
  7. When the news is bad about your agency or company, never conduct the interview in your office.  That way, you can leave if you need to.  If the news is good, make sure your logo is front and center, though!

Another tip… Whenever you’re being interviewed and there’s a microphone or camera present, consider it live.  Whatever you say or do could be recorded and used.

Ways to answer…

  1. Direct and immediate answers are best.
  2. Do not ramble.
  3. Buy time.  Just because they’re there, suddenly at your doorstep doesn’t mean you have to do the interview that very instant.  Ask for 10 minutes to finish what you were doing.  Then use that time to prepare and develop your message.
  4. You don’t have to answer every question that’s asked.
  5. If you don’t know the answer, say so, but try to find out the answer.
  6. Don’t say “no comment” – it’s never an acceptable response.  You can say the same thing without using those two dreaded words.  Come up with a friendly, alternative response.
  7. When the question is negative, never repeat the charge in your answer.
  8. Bridging is one of the most important techniques available.  A-B-C 
    1. Answer the question  
    2. Bridge to what you want to talk about 
    3. Communicate your message

How to avoid negative interviews:

  • Don’t be caught by surprise. Develop contintency plans ahead of time.
  • Know your media representatives.
  • Develop a news release that answers the questions.
  • Assign a spokesperson who knows your issue, your stand on it, and who is articulate.

Do all these things and become an EXPERT SOURCE.  The media will call you when they are covering a topic, resulting in positive coverage for you and your organization.