By Jeannette Boccini, executive vice president, Didit
For more than two decades, I have arranged and monitored hundreds of media interviews for commercial and residential real estate and A/E/C executives.
Many of these interviews have resulted in great coverage that has increased the positive visibility of my clients, or, in the case of a crisis situation, minimized the potential damage to a client’s reputation.
However, not all interviews are successful from the interviewee’s perspective. In the majority of cases, these interviews had the potential for success.
Problems usually arose when the interviewee failed on content – he or she wasn’t prepared to address the given subject or didn’t have the right knowledge base – or the delivery of the information was lacking.
Unfortunately, many professionals who are excellent in their given careers and have a great deal of knowledge to share, are not always the best interviewees. The reason for this disconnect often comes down to four words: lack of media training.
Below are some media tips every interviewee should consider before speaking with a member of the press:
• Understand Your Role – Whether you work for a large REIT, a boutique brokerage or an architecture firm, when being interviewed by a member of the press you are serving as an ambassador for your brand.
Thus, you should take interviews seriously and showcase your knowledge and expertise. If you do not feel that you can do this well, take a pass on the interview. A busy reporter will appreciate that you did not waste his or her time.
• Understand the Media Environment – Today’s media industry is in a constant state of flux. A 24/7 news cycle with relentless deadlines has reporters and broadcasters scrambling to uncover breaking news and secure the best sound bites. The media has a job to do, and they need your help. However, they are not in the business of promoting you, your company or cause. They are there to report the news in a fair and accurate manner.
The best interviewees understand the media with whom they are speaking and their target audience. They listen and answer questions directly and thoughtfully. They also know their job is to help the reporter, not the other way around. And, they recognize that they won’t necessarily get coverage in every story. Sometimes stories don’t run; other times your quote may be edited out of an article that is running too long. However, if you help a reporter get his or her job done, you are definitely more likely to secure a placement.
• Prepare Your Content – Many interviews fail because the interviewees simply wing it. They haven’t taken the time to understand the focus of the article or the reporter’s thesis. As a result, the interviewee may be unprepared to answer specific questions, or may provide incomplete or inaccurate information.
Preparation is one of the most important facets of media training. An interviewee should determine key message points, research important facts and figures, and come up with anecdotes and illustrations before the interview.
Even the most experienced interviewees prepare. Not only do they consider what they are going to say, they contemplate what questions could be asked. Those interviewees who have taken the time to think about their interview in advance are less likely to ramble on, stray from the topic and get flustered, particularly when asked a tough question.
Another point when it comes to content is to recognize that the reporter may not have extensive knowledge on the subject at hand and know what you know. Therefore it is important to explain issues carefully and not fall into industry speak. Additionally, you shouldn’t inflate your language. This only makes the interviewee seem pompous and inaccessible.
• Consider Your Delivery – Excellent content that is poorly delivered can doom an interview. Sometimes interviewees, excited by the opportunity to share their knowledge and passionate about the topic, will speak so rapidly that a reporter can’t squeeze in a question or grasp the information being shared. In their enthusiasm, they may shout into the phone, or, if it’s an in-person interview, gesticulate to the point of distraction. On the other hand, some interviewees hold back to an unnatural degree. They slow their pace so much that there are awkward pauses and their voices become monotone. When trying to come up with the next thought, they may use fillers such as “um” or “like,” which can distract a reporter.
Everyone in a business, from the most junior spokesperson to the company president or CEO, can benefit from media training. Even an individual who has been interviewed in the past can learn from earlier experiences and improve.
After all, every media interview is different and presents a new opportunity for you to share your expertise with the audiences most important to you and your business and increase your positive exposure. Why leave it up to chance?