Public relations pros around the world consistently dread the reaction from their clients if they are left out of an important story. If you are a subject-matter expert or spokesperson, you may have had a number of interviews but never landed in an article or just have had a few words in the story.
We hear this often. After the media interview takes place the interviewee feels that they spoke with the reporter for a long time, exhaustively covered the topic, and gave the journalist more than they could ever possibly want to know about the subject.
Then the story appears. Competitors and other experts are quoted extensively, the information that you gave to the reporter appears in the story but there is no attribution to you at all. You are some combination of angry, disappointed and/or embarrassed.
Well, all of those steps that you thought were correct actually worked against you. You need to refocus your efforts in order to have a productive and mutually beneficial media interview. We often hear from reporters that the person being interviewed talked a lot and for a long time, yet didn’t actually say anything useful or usable that can be put in the story. Let’s help with some basics to fix this.
You are going on for too long: First, spending a long time speaking with a reporter can be counter-productive. Unless it’s for a major profile on you or the firm, journalists simply do not have an hour or more to spend with each source as they are writing a news, current event or general interest story. In today’s fast-paced news cycle environment, reporters simply can’t always spend that much time with a single source. Keep your responses short and to the point. Focus on the meaningful pieces that the reporter can use to relate to their audience.
You aren’t interesting: Next, covering a topic from beginning to end helps the reporter with education and context on the issue but those pieces of the conversation can be said by others or found through a bit of research. This is why your comments would not necessarily be attributed to you when you see those very words in the article. Frustrating, I know. Instead, focus on the most compelling and topical highlights that the reader will care about. In other words, something news-worthy. Determine what is most compelling and new and then say that. The only time a writer should quote someone is when they can’t say it better or with more authority.
You are going too deep: And finally, going into great detail on a topic is an easy way to bore the reporter or may be much more than the journalist can possibly convey to readers. Simplify your talking points, tell a story and develop some analogies or anecdotes so that you are quotable and helpful. The media needs to tell a story. In order to be quoted, you need contribute to that story and say something that is easy to understand by the readers who mostly sit far away from your office and colleagues.
The goal for a successful media interview is to not just get through it, but to make the most of your time with the reporter. Helping the media by giving them clear and concise comments that add clarity and something unique to their story will help you land in the article. Spend more time preparing these points in advance so that you can spend less time speaking with the writer. Both you and the media will benefit from this focused approach.