Tips for a better media interview

Sometimes the people who have the most to offer are reluctant to talk to the media. It may be a sense that everyone already knows the information (they don’t) or a fear of being misrepresented.  


Some sources say that they had a 20-minute interview and only one line was used in the story or they weren’t quoted at all.  This happens.  Writers end up discarding information that doesn’t fit the story’s direction.  It’s possible that another source said basically the same thing or the journalist altered the direction of the story, making portions of the interviews irrelevant. 


Some things are beyond your control, but here are some ways to improve your chances of being quoted as the savvy expert you are.

  • Before the interview, read recent articles the reporter has written to get a feel for their style and interests.
  • Ask about the story’s direction, how the interview will take place (many are via telephone). You can also see if the reporter can send over some questions.  (Some do, and some don’t. Plus, they can’t really send you all their questions; something you or someone else says may spark new ideas.) 
  • Research the topic and make notes.
  • Anticipate questions. Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes and think about what their audience wants to know. How will X affect your industry? What is the upside? What could go wrong? 
  • Think about who else is likely to be interviewed.  What can you say that’s different and will reflect well on you and your company? 
  • Write key messages – these are the ideas you’d like readers to takeaway. They’re two or three sentences long and can be delivered in 30 seconds or less and they should reflect your personal or corporate brand.  Then review your company’s key messages and try to connect this story’s response to your company’s brand statements.  
  • Keep your written responses in front of you during the interview and bridge to them when it makes sense.   
  • During the interview, kill all distractions. Turn off your computer screen, ignore texts, and close your door–treat a phone conversation as if the reporter were there in person.

It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.  You’re potentially reaching thousands of readers, influencing how people think about the story, and reinforcing your position as an industry thought leader.

 


 

Would you stop with the would?

The unnecessary use of the word would is one of my pet peeves.  I would disagree. I would argue… I would say…

This irritating verbal tic is incredibly common, especially among TV pundits. It sounds like they’re setting conditions.  Under some undefined set of circumstances they would agree, but we’re not quite there yet.  It seems people use it to soften statements, as if tossing would into the sentence makes the opinion less objectionable.  Most likely, people hear others saying it and mimic the habit. 

Let’s de-clutter our language, cut out the dead would.  

Bad words for claims letters

Gary Blake's article is a quick read, giving guidance on words and phrases not to use from claims letters.  Most are very common – and totally unecessary – in all kinds of business correspondence. I've always hated the "please find enclosed" line. He calls out "business-like" words that make the letter more formal and harder to understand. 

 

United We Drag?

Twenty-four hours after a video of United Airlines staff dragging a passenger off a plane (because it wanted the seat for a United employee) went viral, the CEO offered a poor apology. Everyone makes mistakes–all companies make mistakes.  How you apologize and fix the problem can mitigate the harm and sometimes strengthen relationships with customers.  This is a great article analyzing the CEO's response.