What to Keep OUT of Your Media Messages

Your message. First of all, yes, you need to have one. Winging it is not an option. In fact, before you do your interview I suggest you have 3 main messages or talking points. But how do you decide what those messages will be?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you work to develop your messages:

What are the most important things for your audience to hear? Give them advice they can use TODAY. Advice that will show them you know your stuff.

What will the reporter ask? Sit back and think about what you would ask yourself. Have someone else pretend to be a reporter. Give them the subject and see what questions they come up with.

What are some real life examples that help explain your point? Don’t speak in technical terms, speak in people. Tell me about you or your client’s real life experiences instead of speaking in hypotheticals.

Is your message interesting to those outside your industry? Test it out on some industry outsiders. Do they get it? Do they want to know more? or Are they yawning? Are their eyes glazed over?

Your messages should NOT contain:

A top ten list of the best things about your company. (Don’t laugh I just saw this on a local talk show.)

The address for your new location or your new website.

The details of your upcoming sale or latest deal.

The When, Where, details of an upcoming event.

What I am getting at is that this is not a commercial. You are being interviewed for your expertise in your field. It will lead to a return on investment, but not in the “call now” type way. If you do your job and gain the viewers trust, they will go to your website, they will see your latest deal or the details of the event and they will come and spend money. As you develop your messages, do it as the industry professional you are, not as a used car sales man.

The Questions YOU Need to Ask

While you are busy preparing for an interview and the questions the reporter may ask, don’t forget about the questions YOU need to ask before the interview.

If you have a public relations professional these are also the questions they should be asking on your behalf.

What is the name of the reporter/anchor/host that will be interviewing me? This is important for a couple of reasons. I always recommend you do a little google search on the reporter before the interview (if you have time.) Check out their interview style, learn something about them personally ( dogs/kids, biker/hiker) so you can connect with them a bit.

Where and when will this story air/be published? It is important you know this before the interview so you understand who will be reading/viewing the story. If the story will air during a 4pm newscast your audience will mainly be female, retirees and moms. If will air during a morning show you are talking to business people on their way out the door. You can target your soundbites/quotes to your audience.

What is the angle of the story? No matter what you or your PR Pro pitched you need to make sure that is the angle of the story the media outlet wants to cover. As a reporter there were many times I would get a pitch and it would give me an idea for another angle. If you want to be prepared for the interview, ask this question during the set up of the interview.

Who else will be interviewed? This is an incredibly important question, many people forget to ask. If your competition is being interviewed, if someone claiming something against you is being interviewed,  you’ll want to know. If another expert is being interviewed, you need to make sure you aren’t duplicating information. In order to prepare you need as much information as you can get.

They may not always share everything with you, but it is your job to ask. That being said there is one question you should NOT ask:

Could you send me the questions you’ll be asking during the interview? Whenever I got this question you could probably hear my eyes roll back in my head. For any seasoned journalist the answer to this question will be NO! There are some talk shows and rookie interviewers that will provide you with questions or ask you to tell them what you want to be asked. Some talk shows do this so they know exactly how the show will go. If you are dealing with a news station please don’t look like an amateur and ask this question.

5 Signs of A Great Spokesperson

Choosing a company spokesperson is no small task, but all too often is thought of at the last minute.

In some small businesses this duty, many times, is left to whoever is available at the time of the media request. This is completely unacceptable. You probably agonized over your logo and name of your business, but you are willing to allow the face and voice of your business be whoever is “available?”

Others believe, they own the business, (or are the CEO, President etc…) so they should automatically be the spokesperson. While the boss should be prepared to handle some media interviews, he/she may not be the best person for the day-to-day interviews. Not only do they have better things to do, they simply may not be the best person for the job.

No business should only have one spokesperson. There should always be a main spokesperson and a secondary spokesperson. That second person needs to be there in case the main person is unavailable and also in the case of an influx of media requests.

I challenge you to take a hard look at your staff. Are the people handling your media opportunities really the best employees for the job?

Here are some characteristics to look for in a good spokesperson for your company or organization:

-They look the part. As shallow as it may be, looks matter and so, for that matter, does age. If you are looking to attract baby boomers as clients, they probably won’t relate to a 23 year old, and vice versa. The person has to be generally attractive and look the brand.

-They must be able to appear confident. I say appear confident for a reason. Being nervous is okay! In fact all of my clients get nervous. Nervous people make sure they are prepared. Overly confident people often don’t prepare, they don’t go to a media coach (because they already know what they are doing) and 8 times out of 10, they are terrible interviews.

-They know how to explain things to your customers and people outside your industry in a way that’s easily understood. They don’t use technical terms and when they have to use insider language they know how to define it in a simple way.

-They are easy going, can roll with the punches and do not get easily upset or flustered.

-They know and understand the business inside and out. They are passionate about what they do.

Choosing a spokesperson should not be taken lightly. Once you determine who, give them a leg up and be sure to provide professional media training.


YOU need to Steer the Interview

When it comes to doing an interview many are intimidated because they fear hard questions and tough reporters. Sadly, what they need to fear more are uninformed reporters, on their third story of the day and up against a looming deadline.

A journalist’s job was never glamorous, but now it is even less so as the position has become three or more jobs (reporter/web writer/photographer/editor/producer/social media pro/blogger) rolled into one. All of those jobs come with their own deadlines, so the reporter is really a constant multitasker.

This is why now, more than ever, you need to be the one steering your own interview. Winging it is not an option, because chances are, the reporter or photographer sent to do the interview has received nothing more than a few sentences about who you are and what the interview is all about. They haven’t had time to do any research or fact checking thanks to all those deadlines. They may have already had to write something up and put it on the website before even talking to you.

You had better know what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. You also need to remember this story is going to be written FAST. There’s no time to review the entire interview, so you’d better get the important stuff in during the first minute. Chances are your interview will last about 5 minutes. You’ll be lucky if 30 seconds of it gets used or quoted.

If they don’t seem to know what they are asking about, you had better be able to get them back on track, or you could waste the opportunity completely.

A sad reality in the new world of the media.


A media FAIL by the Arizona Department of Economic Security

Recently we watched as Janice Mickens, head of the Children, Youth and Families division of DES miserably failed during an interview with KPHO’s Tammy Leitner.

Watch the DES Media Fail here:


Don’t just shake your head at this story, learn from Mickens’ mistakes.

Here are Mickens’ Top Five Crisis Interview Fails:

1.) Complete lack of transparency and honesty. A mistake was made, admit it. Failure to do so will leave people thinking you are untrustworthy and hiding something.                   “I can only tell you… the advice that we got when responding about this particular situation.” – Mickens (Possibly one of the worst crisis communications soundbites I have ever heard.)

2.) Answer the question. There are many ways to cautiously answer a tough question, sitting in silence is NOT one of them. If you don’t know the answer to the question, find it. Tell the reporter on camera that you will get that information for them; then do it, before deadline.

3.) Lack of empathy. During a crisis communications situation emotions are always high. Failure to show empathy for the victim and what they are going through will also have you failing in the court of public opinion. You and your organization will come across as cold and heartless.

4.) No positive action statements. When something goes wrong you find a way to fix it. Even if Mickens was just learning about this problem, she should have been telling us (the viewers) what DES would be doing to make sure this never happens again. Crisis Communication 101 folks.

5.) Total lack of preparation. A person in a government position such as this should be ready and able to handle a tough interview. At the very least she should be able to answer questions with a complete thought. Mickens has obviously not received adequate media training and the DES media crisis plan is obviously not working.

Even if this was an “ambush interview” it could have and should have been handled much better, with much more information shared. Bottomline: Media crisis situations can, do and will happen; fails like this, should not.