Lean Marketing 101: Giving good interview, or how to get a reporter to eat from your hand Mike | June 20th, 2011

In the world of startups and small business there are two basic kinds of company: those the media pays attention to, and all the rest. If  your company has a compelling story, a unique product , or an interesting personality behind it you may be fortunate to leverage that advantage and convince a reporter to write about your offering, your customers, your employees, your industry, your background, your childhood, your pets… (you get the idea).

Most importantly, if the media does come knocking and asking questions, it is critical that you be prepared. Put together a media kit with appropriate background information; have persuasive pitches and story ideas at the ready; be facile with your facts and figures; and learn to make reporters comfortable that you are a credible and reliable source of information.

We often write about ways a company can create word-of-mouth and leverage buzz as inexpensive marketing techniques, and there is no better way to do this than to get your story placed or get yourself interviewed, People do read this stuff; they do remember what they read and they will spread the word if you give them the opportunity to do so. Here are 10 great tips shared with us by various PR and Media folks that I hope you find useful!

1. Prepare well.
Before the interview make a short list of three or four points you want to make during the interview. Keep these simple and clear and keep the list in front of you so you can refer to it and keep the interview focused.

2. Stay focused.
Concentrate on the interview and don’t let anything distract you. If you are doing the interview on the phone, stay away from email and other potential interruptions.

3. Be in control.
Make sure that the interviewer talks about the things you want to talk about. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer their questions, just that you should always find a way to move to your own message and your own agenda.

4. K.I.S.S.
Pay close attention to the interviewer and their own interest in what you are saying; follow their lead on how technical and detailed to get in your answers but always err to simplicity and clarity. Short and memorable is way better than rambling and complicated, but keep the audience in mind as you creaft your answers.

5. Be a credible source.
Be yourself in these interviews and always remember that you have credibility or the journalist wouldn’t be taking the time with you in the first place. Always be truthful and never misrepresent yourself or your company – it is your credibility on the line and even a minor fib can serve to destroy it.

6. Repeat yourself. Then reiterate.
Remember that journalists take notes and if you can find a simple way to restate your main points at several junctures in the interview you have an even better chance that these will make it into the final piece. And after you’ve answered all the questions, recap the main points again.

7. Take your time.
If a question catches you by surprise, give yourself some time to think by rephrasing the question or even repeating it. Never be afraid to ask the journalist to repeat the question if you need a moment to consider your answer.

8. Give great soundbites.
Keep in mind three things: 1) your major selling point or what you are there to talk about; 2) the proof behind your selling point, and 3) making the journalist and their audience care what you have to say. Great politicians are masters at this, they understand well how to make a point, back it up, and illustrate it so that the audience can relate. This is your challenge and your goal in every interview.

9. Handle them before they handle you.
Answering questions is an art and you should be prepared to handle the difficult ones as well as the easy ones. Don’t avoid the hard questions; be prepared for these and use them to bridge back to your own key message. Try not to repeat back negative language or ideas, just calmly assert your own position and get your point across without actually acknowledging the negative point.

10. Watch what you say.
If you don’t want to see it in the media, then don’t say it! Remember they will write what you say and the information will come from you first. Better to bite your tongue than to get bit when the interview is published.

Photo: United Nations Photo

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  • Mandie

    Great article (as always) but … do you need a proofreader or something?

  • Chris

    What’s a media “kist”? 🙂

  • As a journalist, kind of insulted by the “eat from your hand” terminology. We’re professional communicators, not tiny-brained deer at a petting zoo.

  • Anonymous

    @Jenni Spinner – hey, thanks for reading the post and for your feedback. No offense intended, just a gentle way of illustrating that journalists (like many professionals) need “care and feeding” to build relationships, and develop mutual value. It’s a two way street and entrepreneurs need to be mindful of how best to approach you and your colleagues.

  • Anonymous

    @Chris – thanks for pointing it out! I fixed the typo; it was meant to read “Put together a media KIT with appropriate background information…”

  • Anonymous

    @Mandie – Yes! Are you available? 🙂

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