Getting Your Key Messages into Media Interviews

"Did you get in your key messages?"

Did you get in your key messages?

In our last post, we discussed techniques to move your name to the top of the list when reporters are seeking experts for media interviews.

Now that you’ve gone through media training and booked the interview, how do you improve your chances of having reporters use your key messages in their stories?

The first step is to craft your messages with supporting facts. Then practice, and practice some more until you’re entirely comfortable in your delivery. In the fast-paced environment of news reporting, you may only have time to communicate one, two or three, if you are really lucky. You can increase your chances of being quoted accurately by doing something very simple, yet effective.

Feed the Reporter First

By this we mean, before the interview send the reporter a backgrounder or memo to guide the discussion so that he can have it in front of him during the media interview while you’re talking on the phone or by email. While some reporters still have beats like finance and fashion, increasingly they are being asked to cover multiple industries, as media outlets shrink their staffs.

Also send the reporter fact sheets, samples (if appropriate), and other key information prior to the interview to enhance her understanding of the topic.

You cannot expect a reporter to know as much as you do about your subject. In fact, she may not know a lot about your industry. So make her job easier by preparing a discussion guide that includes:

  • A brief opening paragraph of two or three lines that explains the subject of the interview: an industry problem your company solved, your company’s new business focus, how the Internet has opened a new distribution channel for your company, etc.
  • A list of potential questions she might ask: Why is the industry facing this problem? How is your company helping to solve it? What is the future for this industry looking like? What new developments will keep your company ahead of overseas competition?

Check for Understanding

During the conversation, elicit feedback to be sure you are getting your points across. Take a breath and let the reporter ask a question. If it is a live, face-to-face interview, you can read a reporter’s facial expression and body language. Does he look confused or puzzled? You can ask him, “are you with me” or “do you have a question?” If so, answer the question and weave in your key messages.

Before the interview is over, recap your key points to ensure that you and the reporter are in sync.

There is no guarantee the reporter will adhere to your written points. But why not improve your chances of getting your key messages included in the story by supplying the reporter with a ready-made script?

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