Media relations: 10 tips for handling media interviews

Getting news about your small business covered by the media can be both an exciting and a daunting event. Many small business owners have little or no experience in dealing with reporters, so that first interview can be an intimidating experience.

One of the best things you can do to help feel more confident about being interviewed is to think through the key messages you want to convey. There should be no more than three of these; don’t try to shoehorn in every last detail about your news because then the really key facts will be in danger of getting lost.

Also, have a fact sheet about your business ready to give to the reporter. This will help assure they report basic information correctly ; nothing is more annoying than to work hard to get some publicity and then to have your name spelled wrong or some similar error made.

Here are 10 more tips you can follow to make the whole thing a little less scary.

1. Prepare for the interview by having someone ask you all the questions that might arise. You don’t want to sound “rehearsed,” but you do want to be prepared for difficult questions.

2. If a reporter calls you unexpectedly for an interview, say you are in a meeting and will call him/her back in half an hour. Find out what the deadline is. This puts you in charge instead of the report when you call back.

3. Never say anything in front of a reporter that you wouldn’t want to read in the morning paper. Unless you and the reporter have agreed in advance that something you are about to say is off the record, everything you say is fair game and may end up in the story.

4. Answer questions as honestly and accurately as you possibly can.

5. If you don’t know the answer, don’t make one up. Simply tell the reporter you don’t know but will find out and get back to him/her. Then do it! You’re trying to establish an on-going relationship with this person so follow through on what you promise to do.

6. Remember that you don’t have to “fill the silence” in an interview. Don’t just keep rambling because that may lead you into revealing more than you wish to reveal.

7. Don’t answer questions that you find offensive. Instead, redirect the reporter to one of your key messages with a statement that begins with something like, “I prefer to focus on….”

8. Don’t assume that once a reporter closes his/her notebook, the interview is over and you can let your guard down.

9. Never assume the reporter is your friend just because you’ve dealt with the person before and she/he seems like a nice person. Reporters have jobs to do just like the rest of us and their job is to gather news; they don’t particularly care whether it’s good news or bad news so don’t start treading them as if they’re a close confident.

10. NEVER SAY “NO COMMENT.” What do you think when you see someone say, “No comment” on “60 Minutes?” You immediately think they’re guilty of something, right? Keep that in mind so those dreaded words don’t come out of your mouth.

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