A 5 Step Guide to Meeting ‘the Media’
So, your PR agency has secured that coveted interview. Whether you are featuring in a top publication, appearing on a TV or radio show, or taking the time to meet and talk with a journalist covering your field, you might think the battle has already been won. In reality, the most important part is all now down to you, but your PR team will have the knowledge and ability to help support and prepare you.
In some cases featured interviews will be answered over email, which will give you plenty of time to think and review your answers, but for many opportunities you’ll need to be ready to be put on the spot.
To help you get your head straight we’ve put together our guide to meeting ‘the media’.
Preparation is vital
Even if you aren’t confident, being prepared will make you appear so, and there are several aspects to preparing. Agreeing to questions and topics before the meeting will help you to make notes on your answers, however this can’t always be done and even if questions have been agreed with a journalist it’s likely you’ll be thrown one or two you weren’t expecting.
Your PR agency should also help prepare you by doing a mock interview or coming up with all the ‘trick’ questions – creating a list of challenging questions, so you can prepare tactful answers and avoid being caught out.
If interviews were agreed as part of your PR strategy, media training should have been undertaken at the outset of your PR agreement. So take this moment to refresh what you learnt in media training sessions. Even if you haven’t undergone training there are simple steps you can take to get ready. Run through messaging with your PR company and ensure you are clear and able to effectively communicate agreed business messaging.
Know what your aim is. Why are you doing this interview? What do you want to achieve? It may help to write down the top three things which you feel are important to convey. Be sure not to push too hard, or to come across as too ‘salesy’.
However important your goals are you must bear in mind the purpose of the interview for the journalist or media outlet. What do they want to know or gain from this meeting? Have an understanding of what the journalist wants and give them useful material and insight and they will come back again.
Clear your schedule around the appointment as much as possible so you can take the time you need and don’t do anything too stressful or draining before! Remove distractions from your workplace and ensure you’ll have a quiet environment with no interruptions. This goes for in-person meetings as well as phone or video calls.
We often speak faster than we think we do. Slow down your speech slightly during the interview, particularly if you are on the radio or TV speaking directly to a larger audience. Listen to what the journalist is asking (it’s easy to get caught up in what you want to say or what you think they are asking rather than what they are really asking). Give yourself time to think before answering and respond thoughtfully to the matters in hand.
Whether you’re doing the interview via phone or in person, dress smartly, but in a way that feels natural and comfortable for you. This will help you feel put together and confident, even if no one else can see you. If you are able to be seen, the journalist, or your audience, will recognise you have made an effort.
Body language and breathing are also really important, especially if you are nervous. Sit up, or stand straight, with proper posture, to convey confidence. This will also help open up your breathing. Be sure to take a few calm, deep breaths before beginning your interview to steady yourself and focus.
Know your boundaries. Discuss with your PR team any details you are not happy discussing, such as your personal life or business turnover. If you think these things may come up, make sure to communicate to the media that discussion of these matters are ‘off the table’ upfront. If they do come up, just calmly and politely respond that you aren’t able to discuss those matters. Most journalists will respect this, but if you find yourself being pushed just remain calm, and focus on moving them on to another subject.
Meet in person if possible. Phone or online interviews are often the go-to choice as they are faster and more convenient. However, if you can, and the journalist is interested, take the time to meet in person. Many elements of communication are lost through using technology and it’s often easier to convey your personality, expertise and passion face-to-face.
Although tech has taken over most aspects of business and our personal lives, there is still something to be said for having a relationship based on at least one in-person meeting.