Concluding the first week of our Marketing for manufacturers series, Brent Whyte shares some advice on speaking to reporters.
Preparing for an interview can be something of a daunting task for managing directors or others charged with the task of communicating with the media.
There are natural fears about how your company, product or situation will be represented, especially when you do not have control of the approval process for the message that goes out.
Often these days, interviews happen by telephone, because the resources of industry media are increasingly stretched, and they can’t always send a friendly, familiar and knowledgeable journalist out; while the daily media wants its answers to a deadline, preferably immediately.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger the media organisation you are dealing with, the less notice they can give you to think about your message in advance – or to review your message after you have spoken.
This can be important if you are talking not only about new advances, but also about evolving safety situations, health issues or other specialist subjects, community interest issues or corporate changes. There are a number of things you can do to ensure your comments are clearly represented. These include:
- If you have time, get a brief media release ready that gives the salient facts, concise background and a contact authorised to speak. Don’t have multiple contacts if you can avoid it – have the company speak with one voice, or at least to the same fact sheet.
- Don’t fill the message with corporate waffle. It will just go on the news editor’s spike or end up at the end of the story with a media invitation to read the company material on a website, after they have finished focussing on facts from other sources.
- Prepare well. Nothing substitutes for thinking about all the questions you may face, and the best way of answering them directly and frankly.
- Weigh up the benefits and liabilities of being interviewed or providing a statement. Is the journalist involved a familiar, knowledgeable person interested in a fair and accurate rendition of a situation, or are they likely to use the interview as an opportunity to present their own conclusions? Are you comfortable with the interview situation being offered?
- Where an interview is a good idea, list the three or four most important things you want to say before you go in. Write them down so you can contribute to the agenda for the discussion. And when the interview is over, send the journalist involved a summary of the points you made, so they cannot be mistaken.
- Where you do not have the answer to a particular question, don’t attempt to wing it unless you are brilliant at extemporaneous speaking. Offer to provide that information as soon as you can after the interview and follow up.
Brent Whyte is Managing Director of Whyte Public Relations, working alongside Senior Consultant Jack Mallen-Cooper, who joined the company in 2012. Whyte Public Relations works with local and international companies operating throughout Australasia, South Asia, Europe, America and China.
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