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PR Tip Sheet – June 2023

By June 1, 2023June 7th, 2023No Comments

Stay The Course In Tough Media Interviews

Doing live broadcast interviews – television, radio, podcasts, press conferences –  can be exhilarating but also extremely nerve wracking. Every producer and interviewer is different – having their own interview style and ultimate goals for how they want the story to be. 

Will it ultimately position you and your company well? That depends. Most of the time, the viability and brand exposure are well worth it, especially if you’re well versed on key messages, speak well, and are camera friendly. But, there’s always some level of risk involved as anything can happen in the editing process. That’s why it’s important to know what you want to say and stay the course. 

When I led marketing for a US industry association, I brokered an interview with Chris Cuomo, who was then at Good Morning America. The topic was an emotionally charged one – the industry’s response to one of the biggest product recalls – more than 20 million consumer products tainted with lead paint. As the leading industry group, we approached this crisis responsibly and with communications transparency, and wanted the opportunity to tell our side of the story. 

Prior to going to the studio, I worked through the interview questions with the producers. Everyone seemed in agreement and on board. Unfortunately, Cuomo redirected the interview to serve his own purpose – to tell a negative story about industry negligence – and attacked and interrogated my client on camera. 

It was horrible; as I watched this transpire from the sidelines, I kept thinking that I should storm in and take her out of the studio, but that would have only made matters worse. 

While this is an extreme case, there are important lessons to be learned. 

Do Your Research and Be Selective

While it’s generally very positive to be featured as a subject matter expert, don’t feel compelled to accept every interview request. I discourage people from accepting on the spot requests because it’s a good idea to a) think about the opportunity, and b)research both the media platform and the reporter beforehand to make sure it’s a good fit for your story. If the reporter has a history of misconstruing the facts and/or sensationalizing, politely decline the interview. 

Practice Makes Perfect

In advance of the interview, carefully develop your messaging making sure to be in alignment with company core values. Avoid industry jargon and use layman’s language, as well as phrasing, that people will instantly understand. Broadcast interviews can feel long but are in actuality quite brief, from 15 seconds to a few minutes. Practice articulating the most important points in different ways in short time snippets. 

Test your talking points with someone outside of your field to get honest feedback. Enlisting a public relations professional with strong media relations experience will help in this process.

Stay on Point Even When Thrown a Curveball 

Interviewers can throw in offbeat questions to distract the interviewee with the intention of getting a more casual, unrehearsed answer. Sometimes it’s an angle that the interviewer wants to take  in an effort to get a different kind of response. Don’t take the bait. Ground yourself and do your best to a) stay unemotional, especially if you’re on camera, and b) redirect the conversation and return to your key messages.

If Things Go Wrong

If you feel that the final broadcast interview is very off base, you may want to contact the producer and tactfully let them know why. Although you can request an opportunity to give a rebuttal, in most cases, this will not come to fruition. The reason is that in a digital world, news stories move quickly and by the time your story comes out, the producer is already on to the next thing. It’s somewhat easier to give a rebuttal to a print interview by writing an OpEd or a letter to the editor. 

Julie Livingston

Author Julie Livingston

Julie Livingston is president/founder of WantLeverage Communications

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