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Preparing for the Media: A Checklist for a Positive Interview

In our media relations work at Sharon Merrill Associates, we spend considerable time training senior management on dealing with the media. To be sure, not all interviews are investigative reporters looking to break the next big scandal. Of course, reporters also are not being paid to write a glowing advertorial about your company either.

Treat every media interview request as an opportunity, not as a threat, and you will see increased positive coverage of your company. Not all of your coverage will be 100% positive, and there may be occasions where the facts in a story are not completely precise. But increased media coverage overall can have tremendous benefits to your sales, marketing, recruiting, investor relations and other critical corporate functions.

Still nervous about speaking to that reporter who called you out of the blue? Here is a checklist to make sure that you make the most of your media opportunities:

  • Make a list of your company’s key messages. Relate each answer in the interview to these themes.
  • Have a 60-second elevator pitch ready, in case the reporter has only a brief time to speak with you.
  • Spend a few minutes thinking about tough questions you hope you are not asked, and carefully plan your responses.
  • Be familiar with some of the reporter’s recent stories. Refer to them during the interview.
  • Use a land line, not a cell phone, for all telephone interviews. You do not want to be misquoted because of a bad signal.
  • Don’t assume the reporter is an expert on your company.
  • Avoid technical jargon. Use plain language that allows your answers to be easily understood.
  • Use anecdotes to illustrate your points.
  • Make sure you include all relevant information when answering a question so that you do not appear to be hiding anything. But at the same time, don’t ramble. Too much information can distract from the key messages you want the reporter to focus on.
  • Assume everything you say is “on the record” even when you are asked to go “off the record.”
  • Do not ask to see a copy of the story before it is published.
  • At the end of the interview, thank the reporter for taking time to speak with you.
  • Offer to provide a phone number where you can be reached after business hours in the case the reporter has last-minute questions.

David Calusdian
Executive Vice President & Partner

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