Preparing Yourself to Talk to the Media

As a business owner, you may want or need to speak with reporters for old (print, radio, and TV) or new (web-based or mobile) media. For example, an incident on your premises or in your local area may attract media attention, or maybe you've developed a new product that you want to tell the world about. Are you prepared? Take the time to hone the skills you'll need before your next interview.

 
Preliminary actions
Decide whether to accept an interview. Usually doing so is in your best interest, but not if you don't think you have sufficient expertise on a topic or if you believe the interviewer to be hostile to you or your company.
 
Respond to reporter's inquiries promptly. Reporters are always on deadlines, so failing to return a call or email usually sends reporters in other directions.
 
Find out what you can about an upcoming interview. Get specifics about the topic. Ask if you can see questions in advance, and they may be provided in some cases.
 
Understand ground rules
The time allotted for the interview dictates how much information you can convey and will help you prepare your talking points. Ask about time limits. Also, find out whether the interview is taped or live. If taped, you usually have an opportunity to correct or restate your comments.
 
You've heard the expression of speaking off the record. This means you don't want a reported to use your comments, but it relies on the media source's discretion. The better course of action is to not make any comments you wouldn't want publicized.
 
Also, refrain from commenting on any pending legal actions or where comments may be out of line (e.g., talking about an event that caused serious injury to employee before his or her family is aware of the situation).
 
Craft your message
What is the general message you want to get across during an interview. Be brief and clear. Use strong language (but no profanity) that connotes an image or creates a feeling in the listener.
 
Managing the interview
Dress appropriately. This means wardrobe, hair, and makeup (where appropriate) that are suitable to the medium and the audience. At the same time, be comfortable and be yourself.
 
During an interview, stay cool and don't become riled by questions that come out of the blue. Develop a game plan for handling tough questions. For example, if you don't know the answer, you may simply say that or, even better, turn things around to your advantage by stating what you do know that is relevant to the topic. When asked for an opinion, decide whether it's wise in a particular situation to give one.
 
Be sure to bring the conversation back to your message. Try to repeat your message as often as you can, but at least three times.
 
Conclusion
If you expect to do frequent media appearances (e.g., you're the "expert" on a topic), consider investing some money and time in media training. It can go a long way in ironing out the rough spots and preparing you for anything that may come your way.
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