In today’s competitive breaking news cycle, journalists often turn to their trusted resources for information, skipping contact with the PR professional altogether. This is positive news for the PR pro; we want our clients to become trusted resources the media can turn to whenever they have a breaking story.
But what happens once you’ve achieved this level of trust between your client and a reporter? Without the luxury of traditional preparation, it’s critical that we arm our clients with best practices on acing the unexpected media interview.
Here is a checklist of “Do’s” to share with your client and ensure the media interview is fruitful for everyone involved:
DO be responsive to a reporter that reaches out. Oftentimes, journalists are working on breaking news and have tight deadlines, so they are looking to gather information quickly. Responding to an email or returning a phone call promptly increases the likelihood that the reporter will quote your client as a source in his or her article. Advise clients to respond promptly or risk missing out on the opportunity.
DO use the “block and bridge” technique to respond to a reporter’s unwelcome or controversial question. This can be accomplished by using smooth connecting phrases such as “It’s our policy not to discuss ______ specifically, but I can tell you…” Avoid responding with “no comment” or “I can’t answer that.” The reporter may still find your client’s commentary useful for his or her article.
DO speak slowly and clearly. An unexpected interview can be nerve wrecking, causing clients to speak too quickly or veer off topic. Remind your client to remain calm and provide the reporter with the information to the best of his or her ability.
DO follow the reporter’s work on a regular basis. This will help the client familiarize himself with the reporter’s writing style and beat. For instance, your client may find that the journalist prefers to use controversial quotes, statistics or case studies. Knowing the reporter’s style in advance informs the client of the types of information that might be useful to that reporter, be that in a real-life anecdote or statistic.
Becoming a trusted resource for top-tier media is the ‘holy grail’ for clients and their PR team. Arming your client with the company’s messaging and these interview tips long before a reporter ever makes contact ensures your client is ready for that unexpected phone call.