B2B reporters today don’t do media interviews like they once did.
The pace of news is faster. The shelf-life of articles is shorter. There are fewer reporters responsible for more stories. There’s only so much time in the day which means fewer interviews are conducted.
More than ever, reporters are reliant on existing content for developing coverage. Research demonstrates reporters search for credible and trusted sources – that is hype free content with sound data and well-founded analysis.
If you are fortunate enough to secure an interview, then you certainly want to make the most of it. Below are ten proven tips for successful media interviews. Keep in mind these are offered from the perspective of the typical B2B announcement or story pitch.
1) Take a few minutes to get focused.
The modern business executive is in perpetual motion. They dash from meeting to meeting with sales, legal, HR, or more, and if they don’t take a moment to get focused before an interview, they are liable to ramble. You certainly don’t want an executive to come across as “handled” but getting them on phone 10 or 15 minutes before an interview and casually ask them a couple of likely questions.
2) Anticipate a broad open-ended first question.
Of the recent interviews, I’ve facilitated over the last few years, the majority of them begin with a broad question such as “tell me about the deal?” or “tell me about the new product?” That’s a hard question to answer if you haven’t thought about it. It’s also a surefire way to stumble for the first few minutes and miss an opportunity to influence the direction of an interview.
3) Answer the question why?
Simon Sinek wrote that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. This goes for selling of ideas as well – you have to provide a why. Too often executives get on an interview and zoom into the detail too soon. This happens often with executives stemming from technical roles. When this occurs, you risk losing the reporter, the story, and you’ve made your job getting another interview nearly impossible. Answer the questions like why your company was created or why a product exists, in order to provide a baseline and foundational understanding.
4) Use stories and anecdotes wherever possible.
There was a time in human evolution where the written word didn’t exist. We passed knowledge verbally and this means our minds are pre-wired for stories. People forget statistics, they get facts mixed up, but they always remember a good story. Reporters are in the business of telling stories, so share anecdotes whenever possible.
5) Avoid bashing the competition.
It might be hard to see in this political climate, but there’s rarely anything good that comes from bashing the competition. It’s okay to compare and contrast but keep the commentary diplomatic. Anything less tends to come off as bullying or desperation, especially in the long run, and public relations is a very long run.
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6) There’s no such thing as “off the record.”
Say it with me: there is no such thing as off the record. Even if the reporter says it is off the record – it is not off the record. Don’t say anything you don’t want customers, investors, or other stakeholders to see, hear or read.
7) Nobody watches the media like the media.
The media is both generous and highly competitive at the same time. Pick an elite journalist and read through their interactions on Twitter. They’ll share stories from competitive publications and reporters, add commentary, and interview each other (it is especially common for print reporters to be interviewed broadcasts and podcasts). It’s a pretty tight circle and this means coverage begets coverage. Whatever interview you are doing, it has the potential to reach far beyond the readers of that one publication.
8) Treat every reporter as if they work for the WSJ.
Reporters change beats and publications very frequently today. Traditionally, young reporters started at small publications and eventually found their way to large publications, columns and other influential roles. That still happens to some degree today, but even more likely is to be interviewed by a freelance journalist that writes for a number of publications. You never know where a reporter today will be writing tomorrow, so treat everyone as if they worked for the Wall Street Journal.
9) An out for that uncomfortable question.
If any question makes you uncomfortable the easy out is to say, “Let me look into that and I’ll follow up with you.” This isn’t about dodging tough media questions, it’s about a comfort level with disclosing sources and methods – customers or data – or making commitments such as forthcoming product features. If you commit to a product feature in a news article, you can bet your customers will hold you to it. If you forecast revenue or headcount, rest assured analysts will slicing that number up to reverse engineer another number.
10) The final answer to “Anything else to add?”
The last question is also often broad and open-ended. “Anything else to add?” is a common way to close an interview. Usually, this is a good chance to summarize what you’ve already said. Resist the urge to introduce a new concept, or make one point – don’t sell past the close – unless there’s some pressing need to reframe an idea.
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An interview is a rare opportunity to delve into a story and build a reputation as a credible source. Interviews afford the opportunity for context – tone of voice, inflection, delivery and other nonverbal signals that help emphasize important points – that’s hard to convey in content.
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