A PR agency's guide for clients to give awesome media interviews
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
We weave a narrative that fits our tech clients’ goals, and send it off to the media. Bam! A TV outlet reaches out wanting to interview our client. Awesome!
This scenario happened just last week, except there was a catch: the client’s subject matter expert – the person we had pitched to speak to reporters – wasn’t ready to speak to reporters.
Good thing this is a scenario for which we’re fully prepared. Time for media training. Ideally, this takes place prior to a successful pitch, but when the deadline is tight, we make time.
So what does it take to get our tech clients media-ready?
Go in knowing your audience
We conduct mock interviews with clients to gauge their comfort doing one-on-ones with reporters. This is by far the easiest way to review training sessions.
In this case, our client’s expert was the only person with enough local knowledge to speak to local reporters.
We made sure our client understood that there were two audiences: the reporter, and the end user. Our pitch had very specific numbers, which had hooked the reporter. But we reminded the expert that the reporter was from a general news outlet, so industry jargon needed to be kept to a minimum.
This approach helps the reporter write up the story for a general audience, without the need to research complex terms.
Go in knowing your elevator pitch
We like to kick off our media training sessions with quick introductions, before asking the client to share more about the company itself.
Here’s where you confidently give your elevator pitch–a 10-second overview of what your company does, and how it helps your targeted market.
In the case of our unprepared expert, we emphasized that this was not the time to provide details about work history or personal interests. It’s less about what you want to share, and more about what the audience wants to and needs to hear.
During the second round of media training (yes, we include multiple rounds of training until clients feel comfortable), the expert was much more succinct.
Go in knowing your message, and stick to it
When a reporter starts tossing you questions about your business, you should answer with enthusiasm and confidence. But listen carefully to the questions, and don’t get derailed by one you can’t – or don’t – want to answer.
We train clients to use the power of bridging. This is when you answer the question you wished the reporter had asked. Use statements like ‘That’s an interesting point, but you know what’s more interesting…’ or ‘I don’t have the answer right now, but what I can tell you is…’ and continue with your message.
For the aforementioned client, we knew there was a strong possibility that a question about a controversial law would pop up. Since the client did not want to take sides on this law, we simply advised the expert to use the bridging technique. This provided another opportunity for the interviewee to reiterate the company’s features.
Finally, go in knowing when to stop
This is a big one because when clients have made their point, they’ll be searching for a place to stop – but suddenly they get sucked into the ‘awkward silence’ trap. Human beings tend to find silence uncomfortable, and will feel the urge to fill it.
Don’t do it. Clients who go down this path tend to over-explain a concept no one asked about, or go off on tangents. During the mock interview, our unprepared speaker ended up talking about the ups and downs of work before landing at the current company. Nobody asked for this information.
When you veer off like this, you risk boring your audience. Make your point, stop talking, and wait for the reporter to ask the next question. Don’t worry, that’s the reporter’s job.
(Here’s a tip: when you’ve made your point, end the sentence in a low tone of voice. People who upspeak (think ‘valley girl’ style of talking) often come across as lacking confidence. Make sure your voice exudes certainty.)
In the end, it’s about putting theory into practice
So why do we offer media training in all of our packages? Because you can read up on the rules all you want, but without proper execution, it’s just theory. Think of it as a sport: the more you train, the more you improve. Eventually, the successful techniques become muscle memory and you’ll nail subsequent interviews. Practice really does make perfect.
Do you have a tech startup with people who might need media finesse? Mind Meld PR has the proven tools to get you media ready, and media coverage. Just ask us how.