With the emphasis on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, video and other forms of digital marketing, the basics of writing, editing and media training can get overlooked. In truth, as someone responsible for brand communications, your remit includes all this and more.
Being asked to personify the brand you represent by speaking with groups, participating in a one-on-one interview with media and preparing executives and spokespeople to do so remain critical to communications. With this in mind, Melissa Baratta, SVP at Affect, a New York-based agency, shares tips for effective interviewing.
Take a Step Back
Whether you or your spokesperson have been on dozens of media interviews or are preparing for your very first, a quick refresher on the ins and outs of a good meeting can make a world of difference. Although there is no way to guarantee an interview will go completely according to plan, there are tips that can help make most interviews successful.
Has the reporter interviewed someone at your company before? Is she aware of the company’s background and products/services? If this is an introductory interview, it’s best not to jump into specifics—ask the reporter if you can take a step back and provide a quick overview of the company, products, services and major initiatives to set the stage for the topic you’re discussing. This will give the journalist a better feel for the brand and its focus for the remainder of the interview.
Build a Relationship
Yes, it's an interview, but it’s also a chance to build a connection and become an industry source for future articles. During the conversation, reference past articles the reporter has written—and compliment or comment on them. Research the reporter (their professional background as well as any hobbies, interests, etc.) so you can mention shared interests. Thank the journalist for taking the time to talk to you. In essence, make it a conversation—it’ll help start and end the interview on a good note and interest the reporter in talking with you again.
Read more media training tips in PR News’ Book of Media Training, Vol 6.
Show Thought Leadership
The interview will be much more successful if you can position yourself as an industry thought leader. Reference current events or trends. Offer an interesting nugget of information. Share a compelling insight or a unique angle. Ask a thought-provoking question. Provide more background on what’s happening in the industry and how it relates to the topic you’re discussing.
Steer the Conversation
While you may have prepared specific points to hit during the interview, in some cases the reporter may start asking questions that lead you down a different path. Read the conversation—and if it makes sense to take a different route than you had planned, go along for the ride. However, if the discussion starts going too far off track, remember that you have the ability to steer the conversation. Don’t abruptly change topics or say “no comment”; instead, try to transition back to the topic you prepared to discuss in a conversational, authentic way. Do so by using “bridges” such as: “What I really think is important is...” or “This brings me back to what I mentioned earlier...” or “I think the key issue is....”
Share a Final Thought
Many reporters end interviews by asking if they have covered everything or if there is anything else you would like to share. Seize this opportunity to reinforce key points or takeaways, or share something extra—this is a chance to end the conversation with the main topic or idea you really want the reporter to remember. You can also use this moment to let the journalist know about other topic areas you’re an expert on, or feel comfortable speaking to—setting the stage for them to call on you as a source for upcoming articles.
Review the Conversation
Every interview is different, so as a PR pro, remember to debrief with your spokesperson after every single interview. Should you be the person interviewed, reflect on the conversation, think about what went well and where improvements can be made, and how to do things differently next time. Becoming a great interviewee takes time, but with preparation every interview can be successful.
Follow Melissa Baratta: @mlbaratta
Follow Seth Arenstein: @skarenstein