This is the second installment in our series on the new rules of PR, helping small business owners get the media coverage they deserve for the great work they do.
So, your PR efforts finally paid off. A reporter is on the line wanting to talk to you. Congratulations—and watch out. With Part 1 of this series you successfully captured the attention of journalists and bloggers, a big first step in getting publicity for your small business.
Now, you’ve got to give a great, memorable interview that makes you stand out; draws attention for the article, radio show or interview; and makes you a valuable resource that the reporter will turn to again and again. As a veteran reporter, here are my inside tips on interviewing with a reporter, and what to do and what not to do.
The Dos of Interviewing with a Reporter
DO respond immediately. Reporters are always on deadline, and if you can’t get back to them right away, there are many other business owners who can. Don’t blow your chance.
DO be flexible. Maybe you own a gourmet food store and pitched a story about holiday gift ideas, but the reporter wants to talk to you about why artisanal foods are hot. Go with the flow! Be flexible about format, too. If you can’t fit a telephone interview or in-person meeting into your schedule, ask if the reporter can send you the questions by email instead. (Bonus: responding by email gives you time to really think through and fine-tune your answers.)
DO be prepared. Ask if you can review some sample questions before interviewing with a reporter, but don’t count on them doing so. Brush up on industry trends and news so you can speak knowledgeably about current events. What anecdotes, examples or stories can you share that will add interest to the article?
DO respect the reporter’s time. How do you feel when you schedule a meeting with someone and they don’t show up, aren’t ready when you show up, or show up late? Right–as always, treat others as you would like to be treated.
DO provide extra information. If you have statistics, case studies or other data that will help the reporter with their story, please share! Know someone else the reporter should talk to? Offer to put them in touch. If there’s some lead time before interviewing with a reporter, send the reporter links to any past interviews, articles you’ve written, or pieces about your business to give them background and save both of you some time.
DO maximize the resulting web traffic. If the article, video or podcast will run online, ask the reporter if they can include hyperlinks to your website or other landing pages you’d like people to visit.
The Don’ts of Interviewing with a Reporter
DON’T cling to yes or no answers. Experienced reporters never ask questions you can answer with a yes or no, but you don’t know when you’ll end up talking to a new reporter or blogger, so be sure to flesh out your answers. Suppose you own a toy store and while interviewing with a reporter, you’re asked, “Is technology hurting the toy industry?” Say, “Yes, and here’s how…”
DON’T monopolize the interview. The other extreme of yes or no answers is the answer that goes on, and on, and on. Take a minute to gather your thoughts before you answer so you can word your response well. Aim for easily-digested, “sound byte” answers of 10 to 15 seconds.
DON’T blatantly promote your business. Reporters don’t want their articles to sound like advertisements. Suppose your business helps entrepreneurs create online videos cheaply and easily. If you’re interviewing with a reporter about online video as a marketing tool, talk about current trends, how entrepreneurs can create memorable videos, and where they can host their videos. You can briefly mention something like, “For example, my company offers a service that does X…” but don’t make your own products and services the focus of what you say.