Preparing The Boss For Media Interviews. By Kevin Sullivan Tuesday, 22nd April 2014
Smart executives and business owners know that a good public-relations program can build a brand and burnish a reputation.
Good PR costs less than advertising and lends credibility to your organization, products, and services. But even if executives believe in PR, if they are not trained or experienced it’s important to properly prepare them before granting any interviews.
No executive should appear unprepared when representing the organization during an interview. Just as importantly, they should not come across as arrogant or aloof. A key to ensuring that the boss performs well is to train him or her for media interviews.
The following is a quick-reference guide for anyone dealing with the media. It is not a guide for serious crisis management, but is a good playbook for more routine media interviews. Think of them as “The ABCs of Media Interviews.” If the interviewee knows this alphabet, then he should not stumble by misstating facts, appearing unprepared or acting in an unfriendly manner.
So, now you’re the coach. Get your boss ready for the interview with these guidelines.
A. People relate to people, so be yourself.
B. Be relaxed, attentive, and alert.
C. Prepare by reviewing notes, articles, company documents or anything else that will help you to sound like you’re on top of things. Formulate three or four key messages to touch on during the interview.
D. Do not use jargon.
E. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Avoid parenthetical phrases.
F. Incorporate part of the question into your answer. For example, to answer the question, “Do you think that the new product will meet analyst expectations,” do not say, “Yes it will,” but answer with, “We anticipate the product will meet analyst expectations because…”
G. You can control the interview. If the reporter doesn’t address your key points, bring them up. You can use an old politicians’ trick; acknowledge the question but shift to another topic. “That’s an interesting question, but what’s important is….”
H. Do not feel pressured to say anything you don’t want to say. If a reporter uses long pauses to encourage you to elaborate further than you are willing, don’t fall into the trap.
I. Do not speak “off the record.” This is an important rule that will keep you out of trouble.
J. Make eye contact when you are interviewed in person.
K. When being interviewed over the telephone, stand up. You will sound more alert and energetic.
L. Set up important points with pauses or phrases such as:
"What’s most important to know is...”
“Let me put it into perspective…”
“Before we get off that subject/topic, let me add…”
“What I’m really here to talk about is…”
“Let me give you some background information…”
“Let’s take a closer look at…”
“That’s an important point because…”
M. Use examples to support your assertions.
N. Never respond with, “No comment.” If you can’t answer a question for any reason, explain why. For instance, you might be under a gag order or the reporter asks a question outside your area of expertise or responsibility.
O. Do not get angry.
P. Never speak negatively about anyone – especially your competition.
Q. Never use inappropriate language.
R. Do not be condescending to a reporter even if the journalist doesn’t understand everything you are discussing.
S. Always return calls to journalists promptly and let them know that you are accessible – remember they have deadlines and may publish the story without your input.
T. Do not try to get too “cozy” with a reporter; stay professional.
U. Remember the ABC’s of Media Interviews: Accuracy; Brevity; Clarity.
Use this checklist when you’re preparing your boss for a media interview. Even if you’re not seeking the spotlight, executives should be in a position to use public relations to their advantage.
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