Talk to the Media? Who, ME?!?!
In a Facebook post, Michele Payn Knoper recently asked “Should we be scared of media interviews?” As you see in the accompanying photo, this ain’t my first rodeo so, naturally, my answer would be “no!”
Most of you guys, however have not been prepped for this so it could be a little daunting. Drawing on my own experience and borrowing some points from Joanna Krotz at Microsoft Business and Andy Field at media-training.info, let me make a few suggestions to increase your comfort level.
- Know what you’re going to say, and know it well. In the biz, it’s called “crafting your message.” The more familiar you are with it, the more automatic it becomes when the microphone comes out and the lights go on. Never – NEVER – “wing it” or shoot from the hip. That’s a sure formula for disaster.
- Polish your message. Practice until you are really, really comfortable – maybe even try it out before friends and family.
- Stay on message. Sometimes reporters intend to distract you, but often they don’t know any better and just wander off. Be prepared to gently guide them back to the topic. It’s usually a lot easier to control the pace and flow of an interview than you think.
- Remember you are the subject matter expert. When a question comes out of left field, be polite and sensitive. This is a good time for what’s known as “bridging,” which creates a transition so that you can get back on track with the message you want to communicate. Don’t avoid a direct question, but transition back to your message as quickly as possible. Atlanta media trainer Debbie Wetherhead suggests such bridging phrases as:
“Before we get off that topic, let me just add…”
“Let me put that in perspective.”
“It’s important to remember that…”
- Relax – unless you’ve done something wrong and attracted the wrong kind of attention, you have nothing to worry about. I don’t remember ever seeing “media interview” listed as cause of death in an obit.
- Look the part. Dress up a little for a studio TV interview, but wearing a suit and tie while standing in front of a barn gives you a little bit of a “Green Acres” look. Don’t go for a “costume,” either. Just be yourself.
- Be brief, be bold, be gone. As Shakespeare quipped in Hamlet, “…brevity is the soul of wit.” The longer things go on, the easier it is to get off track and off message.
- Don’t forget your message! Say it, then say it again then restate it to close out the interview.
Obviously, there’s more that could be said but these are just a few things to get you started. Organizations like Farm Bureau frequently offer media training workshops. Take advantage of them.
Grab every opportunity to share you message. Radio, Television and newspapers help you do that, and they’re content driven so they’re always looking for a good story – give it to them, because you can be sure the other guys will.
The more you do it, the easier it gets!