The media plays a key role in defining issues, creating experts and raising awareness of companies and individuals. By working proactively with the media, you will help set the agenda for your industry and position yourself as a thought leader. If you don’t participate, you run the risk of missing a positive opportunity in the media or being views in a negative light by appearing only when there is an issue.

Knowing what a media interview is and is not can go a long way, so let’s clarify:  A media interview is not a debate, an argument, nor is it just a friendly chat. It is an exchange of new or insightful information between a newsmaker and a journalist. You should not think of this as a “normal” conversation, nor play by the same rules you are used to under any other discussion.

During the interview, the reporter will ask you questions. It is your job to thoughtfully and artfully answer those questions for the purpose of publishing or airing them in print, online or on TV, radio, a podcast or social media channel.

Your role during the interview is to clearly communicate your points, so the journalist can accurately convey the information and messages you share with him or her. Your interview should also include spending the time to establish a relationship with the journalist, explaining context and facts and ensuring the reporter is following — and understands — what it is you are saying. When working with the media, it would be helpful to keep in mind that members of the media:  

  • Don’t hate you, but they don’t love you either.
  • Aren’t out to make you look bad, but they don’t get paid to make you good.
  • Don’t have a hidden agenda, but they do know their audiences and what news is.
  • Are not looking to misquote you, but they will not rewrite your quote into a good one.
  • Don’t intentionally quote you out of context — the context often comes from you.

Call to Action

Taking time to begin prepping for a media interview will help you effectively communicate your messages and so will creating a clear call-to-action. A call-to-action is not directly stated during the interview, rather, it is something that you should understand, so that you can provide information to the journalist that supports your points. It is what you would like the audience to do with the information that you share with the media outlet and reporter.

For example, your call-to-action might be: respect my company; buy my stock; try my product; take action on a certain policy; invest in me; do business with me; trust me; and/or buy my products.  If you want people to respect and admire your company, then talk about its leadership and innovative solutions to tough challenges facing your industry.

Another way to support your call to action is by exhibiting confidence, control, credibility when speaking to the reporter, and then, working to instill comfort not only in the journalist and the audience that you are trying to reach. Although you can’t script the or control the entire interview, you can control your side of the story. Remember reporters can only use what you give them, so it’s better to use caution and stay focused within your areas of expertise. Don’t be drawn into speculation, criticism of competitors and don’t be afraid to say what you do not know. Stay focused on setting the agenda and your key messages.

In many interviews, the first question is often open-ended. Use this opportunity to wave in your top messages and establish context. This will give you a chance to return to your key points and expand on them as the interview proceeds.

Working with a professional media trainer will also help you increase the benefits of working with the media, so your company, organization and brand are enhanced and support your long-term goals and objectives.

 

Ellen Mellody is a senior vice president at Powerplant Global Strategies and seasoned communications strategist, writer and cannabis legalization activist with more than 20 years of strategic communications, media training, public affairs, government, political, issue management, crisis and advocacy experience.