Delivering newsworthy comment: 5 ways to succeed at media interviews

Media relations forms the core of any successful PR programme. The collective media, with all its variations, plays a highly influential role in shifting perceptions, building (and breaking down) reputations and, ultimately, helping funnel prospective customers into the sales pipeline. Done well, with well-crafted messages that resonate and engage with stakeholders, it can deliver tangible commercial results.

While there are many steps in the process, at its heart is the media interview – a direct conversation between the journalist and the spokesperson that has the power to shape and deliver coverage with real impact. As a spokesperson, in that moment your job is to tell a compelling story. The journalist’s job is also to tell a compelling story. The key to any successful media interview is to ensure you’re both telling the same story – and one that informs a common audience.

Here are five tried and tested principles to help you succeed in your next media interview:

Make it easy, make it compelling

A common challenge is wanting to say too much. Any story has a back story and so, understandably, it’s tempting to cover all bases but that can risk losing the central message among the detail. The result could be a piece of coverage very different to the one intended and so an effective starting point is to distil that story into a single attention-grabbing headline with three concise supporting messages. This not only provides a structure to keep the conversation on track but also helps the journalist get straight to the point of the angle you’re contributing.

Apply a customer’s mindset

A journalist will have their readership in mind at all times. If the interview is on a developing industry issue, they’ll want to know how this affects their readers, what action they can take and what expertise you can offer to move that conversation forwards.

There is a time and place to talk product – and your PR team will set up those interviews where the aim is to discuss a specific launch or provide background on company developments. Most often, the journalist is looking for views on an external issue or challenge so, tempting as it might be to lead with product, it’s a valuable opportunity to demonstrate expertise and unique understanding of your market and your customers.

In these cases, it pays to be opinionated and have an informed view that differs from the norm and that always adds a new dimension. Journalists will be talking to multiple contributors so standing out for all the right reasons can be instrumental in landing that lead quote.

Tell the story their way

There are many types of journalists with differing approaches and mindsets – the new journalist looking to expand their sector knowledge, the rushed journalist on deadline seeking a quotable quote, the regional journalist championing local business… Each one influential in their field and hungry for content. What they have in common is they are all looking for a good story, a new and different angle and, even better, an exclusive. Your PR team is there to brief you are what a specific journalist is after and ensure you’re equipped with the right messages to tell the story their way.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Articulating the right story requires preparation and your PR team is on hand to arm you with the tools to ensure success. This includes a full understanding of the interview subject and context, a briefing on the media outlet and journalist and a run through of key messages and potential questions. Through rehearsing different lines of conversation, you’ll have the confidence to handle those difficult questions and understand how to turn them to your advantage.

Keep the conversation going

Journalists value reliable sources of expertise and comment that they can call upon for future stories – particularly if they’re on deadline and need a quick response from a trusted spokesperson. As such, each interview is an opportunity to position yourself as an authority and open up longer-term conversations. Through building rapport and providing journalists with timely insight, you’ll build relationships where you can truly shape opinion and position you and your business at the heart of the debate.

By Chris Patmore, Head of Media