What To Do When The Media Come Knocking

By Nelson Hudes

It’s 5:30 on a Friday afternoon and you’re preparing to close up shop for the weekend.  Then the telephone rings.  It’s a local reporter asking for some of your time to conduct an interview.  Yikes – what do you do? Panic? Start sweating profusely? Slam down the phone?  Or do you take a deep breath and tackle that unexpected interview in a responsive, professional manner?

One day, when you least expect it, someone from your local media is going to come knocking on your door, looking for an interview.  So let’s take a look at some tips to help you get ready for that inevitable interview request.

When I was a child the Boy Scouts had a terrific motto that they still use today:  “be prepared.”  As a small business owner, that’s a motto that echoes what you have to deal with on a daily basis while running your business.  And it’s also a motto you should keep in mind when focusing on your public relations efforts.

Timeless Tips That Will Make You Look Good

But how do you ensure that you’re always prepared for a telephone or face-to-face radio or television interview?  What tips should you keep in mind when you hear a reporter’s voice on the other end of the telephone?  Let’s take a look at a few key things you’ll want to remember when the telephone rings:

1. Focus on your message: Your interviewer has a story to convey to his/her readers, listeners, or viewers.  But you also have a story to tell.  Ensure you convey your message clearly and competently during the interview.  You can do this by staying focused on your message – don’t get sidetracked by the interviewer or the questions being asked.  Whenever the subject strays from your message or your areas of expertise, yank it back to where you want it to be by remembering to focus on the key points you want to convey.

2. Prepare a To-Do List: If the interview is being conducted over the telephone it might help to have a brief “to-do list” sitting in front of you of the 4 or 5 most-important points or issues you would like to convey to your interviewer.  If the interview is being conducted in front of a camera you’ll need to memorize that list before you begin the interview, then ensure you keep returning to it throughout.

3. Speak Slowly & Clearly: If you are giving a telephone interview try and remember to speak slowly and clearly so that the interviewer can take down all of your words accurately.  The worst thing in the world is a misquote and you can avoid having that happen by speaking coherently.  Also, telephone and television interviews require you to speak in a similar manner.  Keep Your Answers Brief: By speaking both clearly and concisely you will be able to convey your message successfully.  When the interviewer asks you a question, try to remember to pause, answer the question as briefly as you can, then pause again to await the next enquiry from the interviewer.

4. Keep Your Language Simple & Straightforward: Try to remember that you’re speaking with an audience that will not necessarily understand acronyms or complicated words or terminology.  Try to speak to a general audience so that you can convey your message to as many people as you possibly can.  But also make sure you don’t speak too simplistically — you don’t want to sound condescending, either.

5. Assume The Microphone Is Turned On: That means you don’t communicate any information you don’t want printed or broadcast. Choose your words and your comments carefully and never speak “off the record.”  If you assume the microphone is also turned on you’ll be extra-careful when you speak, and that will protect you from saying anything that could prove damaging to you or your business.

Bonus Tip:  Try to conduct all radio interviews in a studio setting whenever it’s possible to do so.  Interviews conducted over the telephone are more convenient for both you and for the interviewer but the voice quality is much more professional sounding when you are in a proper studio environment.

Look Good, Act Great!

6. How you look and act is just as important as what you say when it comes to dealing with the media.  The first thing to pay attention to is your appearance – jeans and t-shirts are usually verboten, with semi-casual business attire preferred.  You’ll look professional and more credible on-camera, and so will your business.  Secondly, practice what you preach by standing in front of a full-length mirror or, better yet, a family member and friend and reciting your comments out loud.  Get your friend  or family member to pose questions to you, in anticipation of your interview.

Watch your body language (how you stand, sit, what you do with your hands, whether your eyes dart around or stay focused, etc).

Courtesy is essential when dealing with the media.  Never forget to say “thank you” and act as gracious as possible.  Even if you don’t like the behavior of the interviewer (some media types are guaranteed to rub you the wrong way!) you must hide your personal feelings behind your professional demeanor.  Smile a lot, maintain eye contact and listen carefully to what the interviewer is saying.

I’ve seen interview subjects actually get up and walk out on interviews when they didn’t like how things were going.  Never, ever walk out on an interview.  It makes you look bad, not the interviewer, and will require huge amounts of damage control after the fact.  By remaining courteous and professional at all times you’ll keep the interview process humming along smoothly.

Two More Things To Keep In Mind…

In addition to the tips listed above, you should also try and remember to be prepared in another way – your printed materials.  By having a media kit and your business card ready to be handed to (or mailed out to) the interviewer you will be able to reinforce the message you are trying to convey.  Passing along your media kit ensures the journalist has concrete information at his or her fingertips during the production process when the interview content will be edited into its final form.

When you hand your media kit to the interviewer make sure you stress that you are always available for future interviews on this, or related, topics.  Try to get the interviewer feeling comfortable so that you become an in-demand, relied-upon source whenever they need one.  The benefits of such an arrangement will prove extremely beneficial to you and your organization.

What’s that?  There’s a knock on your door?  Maybe it’s the media, looking for a television, radio or newspaper interview.  They’re looking for you so make sure you’re ready for them.

Good luck and good PR!

Nelson Hudes is President Of Hudes Communications International, a PR firm that has had its clients featured in numerous media in the USA and Canada including INC MAGAZINE, THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER, as well as on THE CONAN O’BRIEN SHOW.    Hudes has the uncanny ability to spin a story making it irresistible to editors and reporters. For more information on how Hudes Communications International can help your company obtain media exposure, visit www.hudescommunications.com or contact Nelson at nelson@hudescommunications.com or call (905) 660-9155