Top 10 Tips for Media Interviews

You’ve been asked to do a media interview. Congratulations! It means you are deemed an expert on a certain subject and that your PR representative thinks you can be trusted to do a good job and represent the company well. All great. But still, you are a bit nervous. That’s normal, of course. But these 10 tips should help you a bit.

  1. Relax. I know, I know. Nothing is more annoying than someone telling you to relax. But it’s still good advice. Mostly because there’s no reason to be nervous. A good PR rep isn’t going to put you in a situation where you can’t be successful. So take a deep breath. Be yourself. Remember that this isn’t the Spanish Inquisition.
  2. Don’t spout talking points. Any messaging ideas that you get from your PR person are meant to give you some themes that you want to convey. Use your own words. Always be genuine. Your PR rep should be willing (eager, even!) to help you tailor the talking points to your own words.
  3. That said, it’s important to remember that the reporter is not your friend. Don’t tell them anything you wouldn’t want to see in print. Don’t say anything “off the record.” (As a general rule, anything that would seem like a piece of dialogue in a cheesy movie or TV show shouldn’t be uttered in a real life media interview.)
  4. Never, never, never, never lie to a reporter. Ever.
  5. Do not use industry jargon. Use the “how would I explain this to my grandmother?” rule. Don’t patronize the reporter, but use plain, clear language.
  6. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t answer the question. It’s perfectly okay to say that you need to find out the answer and will get back to him or her. Never say “no comment.” This is a red flag that there is an issue the reporter should pursue. Instead say something like “That’s a good question, but I don’t know the answer. I can find out for you or point you to someone who can answer it.”
  7. Make the reporter ask the question. Reporters will sometimes try to lead you down a certain road by saying something that is aimed at getting you to fill in his thoughts. It’s okay to politely ask, “What is the question you want me to answer?” That said, don’t come off as evasive. If appropriate you can offer the question you think is being asked and then answer that.
  8. Leverage your PR person for help. Practice with her answering questions. Hearing your answers out loud with help both you and her refine your answers.
  9. After the interview is over, let your PR person know how it went and if there is any follow up needed.
  10. It’s worth saying again: RELAX. In fact, try to have fun. Reporters can be smart, funny and usually ask great questions. If you relax you might find you are even learning something and having a good time while helping to spread the message of your company.

Can bad publicity be good?

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” You’ve probably heard that a few times. You’ve probably said it a few times. It’s a cliche that tends to make non-PR people roll their eyes. “Of course a publicity person would say that.”

Of course PR people don’t really mean it. What they really mean, I think, is that not all bad publicity is bad. And some is good.

Well, now we’ve got some research to back that up.

As it turns out, negative publicity can be helpful for raising awareness of an unknown brand.  It’s less helpful — and more hurtful — for well-known brands.

But it also matters what the nature of the bad publicity is. Bad publicity about a product or service has negative repercussions. (Think of what has happened to Toyota sales.) But bad publicity that is unrelated to the product has far less impact. The example they give is the Gap logo imbroglio. It’s unlikely that publicity about a bad logo is going to have any negative impact on sales.

What’s the takeaway here? I don’t think it ever makes sense to pull a PR stunt to try and raise awareness for your business. It’s too risky. But it likely means that you can worry a little less about negative publicity if you are small brand. Conversely you need to worry a bit more as your brand grows — you have more to lose. In any event you have the most to worry about if the negative publicity about your products. Of course I don’t think you really needed a study to tell you that.

Have You Found a Way to Say Yes Today?

David Meerman Scott has a great post on Web Ink Now about legal departments.  The gist is that too many legal departments are completely unhelpful — they are slow, they say “no” for no good reason.

I found myself thinking that some of the same things could be said about many corporate PR departments.  How many of us have been working on something with a client or a partner only the hear the most dreaded words: “Okay, I’d love to [give you a testimonial, participate in a case study, speak at a conference with you].  I just need to check with my PR department.”  Ugh!!  And the bigger the company the bigger chance that the request will die a slow and painful death in that PR department.

What’s most puzzling about this is that those same PR people are often on the other side of the desk, asking for something.  You’d think they’d see the connection.

I did see the connection and had a complete epiphany because of it.  I was trying to work with a partner on a release and was getting nowhere with the PR folks.  At the same time another partner was asking my company — in the form of me — for approval on a release.  I was going to say “no.”  Or, to put another way, I was trying to figure out if there was a good reason to say “yes.”

And then it hit me.  I should absolutely say yes!  I should always say yes.  Unless there was a big, obvious reason to say no, I should say yes.  And I should say it fast.

Now I say yes to every request that is reasonable.  And I try (*try*) to turn these requests around within 24 hours.  At the very least I do it within the week.  I hope that it will bring me good karma — that when I really need something the PR gods will smile upon me.  Not sure it’s worked out that way, but it has made my overall life more pleasant and happier.  Saying yes is fun!  It makes people happy.

It’s often said that it’s easier to say no and that is why companies, especially big companies, do it so often.  But I think saying yes is easy.  And when you get in the habit, it just gets easier and easier.

Join me in making the world a better place.  Find a way to say yes today!