By Emily Thompson, 1903 Public Relations
Whether you’re a small or large-scale, private or public, opportunities to interact with media will present themselves. They can come either through direct outreach or inbound requests from journalists but eventually, they will happen. The media landscape can be tricky even for the most savvy individual. Preparing your team on how to effectively interact with reporters can help a company navigate nuanced interactions and even further business goals.
Whether you are participating in an interview due to positive news or responding to a crisis, it is critical that your spokespeople know how to communicate a message in a clear and concise manner.
Effectively communicating a story to journalists is a top skill your company spokespeople must hone. It’s common for individuals with little to no training to overshare information when speaking on an exciting topic or project their company is working on with a reporter. That extra information can come across as rambling and can divert from the key messages you’re trying to convey during the interview. In turn, this can result in those points not being included in the resulting article. A thorough media training can prepare your team on how to strategically convey an concise narrative while avoiding mixing up the messages during interviews
Having a plan of action and determining the way you want to deliver the story before stepping into an interview will help give you direction, and most importantly help you stay on track. You should be able to communicate a complete story in a concise and clear manner. A standard story structure often used is beginning, middle, and end. This may sound simple, but many struggle with not delineating these story elements.
Framing a compelling story, with highs and lows that paints a picture – including a problem/complication and solution is another compelling method to frame responses to questions.
Avoid Mixed Signals
Even small details can maximize your organization’s overall goal or be detrimental. Image and body language can become the story, rather than what you are saying. If you’re sharing milestones within your company, be excited and positive about the announcement. Appearing tired or disinterested during an interview could be written into the story and be leveraged to paint a less than positive picture. Your actions can easily distract from your carefully prepared narrative.
With the advancements in technology in recent years, it is important to be just as prepared for virtual interviews as in person. You should still follow a professional dress code that is aligned with your organization’s image. Facing a natural lighting source with an appropriate background will give the best outcome. Test all equipment in advance including your camera and microphone. Set yourself up for a successful interview and being aware of your image and body goes a long way toward that.
Be Aware – You Are Representing Your Company at All Times
For a spokesperson, it can be hard to decide how to present during an interview. Reporters are looking for sources that are credible, concise and personable. Understanding self-presentation when interacting with the press is the easiest way to elevate credibility. Don’t put on a false persona in interviews. Authenticity relays a relatable, trustworthy and transparent image to the public.
A media-trained spokesperson is knowledgeable on how to communicate a key message with minimum distraction while also maintaining control of the conversation. If a member of the media asks you a question outside your expertise, be honest and tell them that you don’t know. Keep in mind that journalists are coming to you because you are an expert, so be prepared to discuss relevant industry news.
It’s common for reporters to ask questions about topics organizations are not ready to address. If this does occur, it’s important to be direct and honest with the reporter rather than avoiding the question. Simply say you can’t speak on the subject, and if possible, use your answer to redirect the conversation back to the targeted message. Your public relation firm can assist you in foreseeing hardball questions and prepare you to handle unexpected situations during interviews.
Whether it’s a response to a press release or a request for your expertise, media coverage can be an exciting opportunity for any sized company. Being properly prepared for interviews is the best thing you can do for yourself and your organization. Proper media training can teach you the best way to handle inquiries, strategic storytelling, and complicated questions.