Updated: Aug 27, 2020
The media interview landscape is changing, with video calls now commonplace and expert speakers with genuine insight to share in high demand. Steve Hemsley, Second Mountain's recommended media trainer and a highly experienced journalist in his own right, shares his top tips to secure and maximise your next media opportunity.
When you are talking to the media you are presenting your story to a number of highly influential audiences. This includes not only existing and potential customers, but also your workforce and your competitors.
The impact a great media interview can have on your brand should not be underestimated. It can be a big difference-maker, so you have to prepare properly.
A media interview is, first and foremost, a business conversation. It provides a great opportunity to come across as a thought-leader, which can not only improve brand recognition but also ultimately have a positive impact on sales.
You must be clear on your story and your message and ensure that everything you say is 100% relevant to that journalist’s readers, viewers or listeners. It's about them, not you.
If you are asked for an interview please consider the following:
Are you the best person to do the interview?
Your PR advisor will only put you forward if you are the most suitable spokesperson for the opportunity. You should be talking about your day job and what you're highly knowledgeable about.
Who is the audience? Who will read, see or hear what you say?
This is crucial. Remember you are not talking to the journalist, but to the people who you want to influence or buy your product or service. Carefully consider who the audience is and what you need them to take away from your interview that is relevant to them - this is the message that you then need to land.
What does that audience want to find out from you today?
Your story must be topical and timely. Think: what can the audience learn from an interview with you? If it is a B2B magazine, for example, how will the reader improve their business as a result of what you have to say? Think about trends you can talk about.
What examples can you provide to support your messages? Will we believe your story?
Journalists can be quite cynical because they hear the same over-used messages from interviewees about how the company is innovative or how it is customer-focused. They need to believe that you are what you say. So, if you say you are innovative, that's fine, but you must be able to prove it. For example, you might say “We were the first business in this sector to invest in X back in 2011...” Back up your proposition with a relevant example.
What difficult questions might come up and how will you answer them?
There are techniques you can use to handle difficult questions and turn negatives into positives without coming across as evasive or defensive. The worst thing you can do is avoid answering.
Often a difficult question is to be welcomed as it allows you to correct a wrong perception. For example, “Actually, I'm glad you brought that up as since we had an issue with production we have invested £2m in new quality assurance technology…” When preparing, think about the worst question you could possibly be asked and how you will respond.
Always work closely with your PR or marketing team. They are experts in media relations and messaging and can arm you with some valuable pre-interview information. They will tell you, for instance, how much the journalist might know about the subject, their likely stance (positive or negative) and what else has been happening recently - or even that day - which could affect the tone and angle of your interview.
If you are well prepared you will sail through a media interview. You might even enjoy it!
Steve Hemsley is Second Mountain Communications' trusted media trainer. With almost 20 years' media training experience, Steve has trained executives from companies including M&S, Barclays, RBS, Boots, Disney, WPP, PepsiCo and Britvic, as well as a host of established technology and marketing firms and start-ups. Steve specialises in teaching how to make the most out of any journalist interaction, understanding body language and tone of voice, and how to remain confident and in control during media interviews.