This month I am sharing a selection of excellent media relations advice that comes from NACo’s publication, NACo Media Relations: A Guide for Counties.
In the first section, you’ll find a list of both “dos” and “dont’s” for media interviews. This week I will focus on the “Dos” and next week the “Don’ts.” So hang on for some rapid-fire content that will prepare you for your next media interview.
Media Interview Dos
Know the story and prepare accordingly: Reporters want thoroughness, served up on a tray of accuracy. So before you agree to an interview, know the ins and outs of the topic, and even take time to discuss them with a colleague or two ahead of time.
Set interview boundaries such as when, where and how long: Availability is always appreciated and important to give reporters. However, you should absolutely communicate the terms up front. That includes the length of time you give them and where it will take place. If you abruptly end because you suddenly don’t like the direction it’s heading, that may become part or all of the story and reflect poorly on you.
Keep the audience in mind at all times: As you prepare, think about the message that the public needs to know. How does this impact THEM. That’s the story the media wants. Focus your preparation on what impacts the audience the audience most first, then least at the end.
Listen carefully to each question: It’s easy to come into an interview scripted and to not want to deviate to the point you dodge or ignore even simple questions. Prepare your message but be nimble to questions you may not have prepared to respond to so that you can come across more genuine and less programmed.
Answer each question with clarity, authority and energy: Reporters can pick up on body language – slouching, shifting too much, hesitancy in voice and mannerisms. Establish a firm, resolute, and confident posture as that will help you exude strength and credibility.
Illustrate your key points with examples: Stories and examples are powerful methods of influence – more so than numbers and facts. They paint a more clear picture, generate interest, and create engagement. Along with your details, be prepared to give viewers and readers something they can relate to and it will remain more memorable for them.
Maintain your composure: There is a space of time between when something happens and your response to it. The bigger the space, the more composed you are. If you are asked something that is troubling or unsettling, use that space to maintain composure. It’s okay to politely ask if the interview can be paused for a moment, while you collect yourself. The last thing you want to do is become defensive, angry, and flustered as you may say something you regret.
Stay on message: Some have a tendency to over-share. They will get asked a specific question and want to respond with more than what was asked about or will provide irrelevant information. Know what your key points are going in, be open to questions you didn’t prepare for, and practice the art of “bridging” where you are able to shift the focus back to the key message.