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Public Relations Basics: Mastering the Media Interview

Your press release did its job. A reporter calls and wants to talk about your business. Now what? You need to build a relationship with the reporter, and the primary way you’re going to do so is through  a media interview.

Reporters interviews to gather information and do research. Even if they report a story based on a written study or official documents, they need to conduct interviews to flesh out the facts, provide perspective, obtain quotes, and add interest. In other cases, interviews alone comprise the entire premise for an article.

When you send out a press release, prepare for a media interview. This means you should not only know what the press release says, but you need to be comfortable elaborating, expanding, and providing concrete examples that support the idea the press release is pitching to reporters.

The media interview can take several formats. Many reporters prefer to interview a source in person whenever possible. Conversation generally flows more naturally in person, and a reporter can draw details from your surroundings using visual cues and other sensory information that they otherwise wouldn’t experience (the smell of the perfume you invented, the taste of your homemade candies).

Time constraints or distance sometimes make this personal type of media interview impossible. Telephone interviews and email interviews are alternatives. Always offer a reporter a face-to-face interview at your business, and then follow his lead if he suggests another preference.

No matter what publication the reporter represents or the format of the media interview, there are guidelines you should follow:

– Remember reporters are working on deadline. Return calls promptly and be flexible in scheduling an interview time. If a reporter wants to talk to you immediately, try to be accommodating. Give him several ways to contact you should he need to follow up later.

– Offer to provide background materials about your company via your web site, email, or fax before the interview. This allows a reporter to become more familiar with the basic facts and conduct a more effective interview.

– Study the reporter’s publication, so you know what kind of information he’s seeking. For example, a reporter at a trade magazine will be writing to a more specialized audience than one at a metropolitan newspaper, and therefore would need different details.

– Stay on track during the interview. You don’t want to answer questions with “yes” or “no” responses; however, you need to be concise. Listen carefully to what the reporter asks and give a relevant answer. Be talkative, but don’t ramble.

– Don’t ask to go “off the record.” This puts a reporter in an awkward position and can give the impression that you’re not being up front. If you don’t want something publicized, don’t mention it. If you think the interview is taking a bad turn or a question isn’t relevant, ask the reporter if the question is vital to the story and how the information will be used.

– Be attentive during interviews. Don’t take calls or allow other interruptions. This is a professional courtesy you would extend to important clients, and a reporter shouldn’t be treated differently.

– Don’t ask to see the story before publication. Some publications have a strict policy against this kind of previewing. Even if they don’t, you are conveying that you don’t trust the reporter. Besides, time constraints in the form of deadlines make it impractical.

– Finally, be gracious, but don’t insist a reporter take gifts as a thank you. If he needs a copy of your book or a sample of your product for research or a review, it’s acceptable to offer him these things free of charge. However, ethical standards prohibit journalists from accepting meals and gifts, because it could effect their objectivity. A thank you note is enough.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.


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