If you're an online business using public relations (PR) to help increase traffic at your site, you've found a great way to gain exposure at little cost. And before you know it, the day will come when you are invited to do an interview with a reporter. It's exciting, but scary. What do you do? How do you prepare?
First, be prepared when the telephone rings. If you sent out a release recently, have it at your fingertips.
Get some information yourself before you answer any questions: Ask the reporter:
- his or her name?
- the name of the news outlet?
- his or her phone number?
- what exactly is the story they are working on?
- are they coming on-site to do the interview or will this be a phone interview?
Then buy yourself some time. If this is an onsite interview, you'll already have time to prepare. If it's a phone interview, you need to ask for the extra time you need to get ready.
Most reporters' deadlines aren't immediate but within a couple of hours. Ask the reporter what his or her deadline is. If you have some time tell them you'll call them back in 15 minutes or half-hour, so you can gather what you need.
Here's some tips to get you ready for your 15 minutes (or more) of fame.
Before the interview:
1. Practice your answers to the questions that will most likely be asked - both the easy and the difficult ones. Prepare and practice so your statements will flow smoothly.
2.Consider the main messages that you want the audience to receive. Make a list of three major points, and practice saying these three points to yourself until you can speak them smoothly and confidently, without stumbling.
3. Be prepared to tell brief anecdotes and short stories. Find a way to mix one or more of your three main marketing messages into each anecdote.
4. Avoid trying to be humorous or telling negative stories. Both will most likely backfire, making you look like the fool.
During the interview:
5. Try to include your three main points as much as possible. Your interview is likely to be edited prior to publishing or broadcasting. By repeating your main points, you reduce the possibility that your preferred message will be edited out.
6. Speak in plain English. Remember the average newspaper's reading level is at grade six. Using jargon or trying to sound more important or educated by using big words will only make it hard to use your sound bites or quotes.
7. Don't lie. Ever. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so, but offer to find out the answer and get back to the reporter.
8. Remember, there really is no such thing as 'off the record.' Everything you say to a reporter is fair game to use. Don't say anything to a reporter you wouldn't want everyone in the world to know about!
9. When you've made your point, stop talking. Silence by a reporter could mean two things: either they are taking notes and haven't caught up with what you're saying, or it's a tactic to get you to say more than you want to reveal.
10. Don't ask if you can see the story before it goes to print. It's the most insulting thing you can do to a reporter. After all, they are the experts in their jobs, you are not. How would you feel if someone challenged your expertise?
Copyright 2005 Cherry Communications/Be Heard Solutions
Shannon Cherry, APR, MA helps businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations to be heard. She's a marketing communications and public relations expert with more than 15 years experience and the owner of Cherry Communications. Visit her web site at www.cherrycommunications.com.