Press Pass: 5 Tips for Talking to Reporters

An interview with the media can give your small business great publicity — but only if you go in well prepared.
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Get prepared and put your best foot forward when representing your brand. (Photo: GaudiLab/Shutterstock)

Knowing how to talk to the media and be interviewed by reporters is a critical skill for anyone representing your brand. The publicity of a great interview can propel your small business forward increasing brand awareness and attracting new customers. But if ill prepared, an interview can also damage your small business’ reputation and your personal image.

“Being able to properly communicate during an interview or presentation is extremely important for small businesses,” said Natalie Maniscalco, founder and CEO of public relations firm Retro Media NYC. “First impressions matter. Once an article or TV segment airs, it can drastically change the course of your business.”

Speak with confidence to reporters and make the most of your publicity opportunities by following these five tips from Maniscalco.

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“When preparing for a news interview, I always recommend that clients stick to the K.I.S.S. rule: Keep It Short and Sweet.”-Natalie Maniscalto (Photo: Natalie Maniscalto)

Arrive prepared

The key to a great media interview is taking time to prepare in advance, said Maniscalco. “Don’t go into the interview not knowing who you will be speaking to, what they are like, and what the interview is going to be about,” she said.

Related: How to Get Free Publicity for Your Small Business

Before your interview, make sure you’ve done your research on both the publication and the journalist, she advised. Read through the reporter’s published articles or watch past TV segments so you know what types of questions to expect — as well as the type of personality you’ll be dealing with. Also, find out as much as you can up front about the purpose of the interview and any angles planned by the publication.

Keep it short and sweet

“When preparing for a news interview, I always recommend that clients stick to the K.I.S.S. rule: Keep It Short and Sweet,” she said. “Prepare and practice the three key talking points that you want to convey in the interview. Keep them short but informational.”

Also, think about what you want readers or viewers to do once they see your segment. Going in with a planned call to action will help you stay on topic and strengthen the impact of the interview.

Pay attention

When responding to a reporter, make sure you stay focused and listen to the question being asked, said Maniscalco. “When we get hold of an ‘important’ ear, we tend to want to ramble on with every little detail. And much too often, the core of the story can get lost,” she said.

She advised interviewees really “tune in” and pay attention to what the reporter is asking. If appropriate, answer the question directly without rambling on or giving too much information.

Related: 7 Tips for Successful Newsjacking

Have an escape plan

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Avoid getting flustered with a reporter’s questions by going into your interview with a strategy in place. (Photo: Alissa Kumarova/Shutterstock)

Some reporters are famous for asking challenging questions that you may or may not wish to answer. Instead of getting flustered in the moment, go into your interview with a strategy for responding to these tough questions.

“Be prepared with a very simple answer and detour,” suggested Maniscalco. “For example, if being asked about a personal issue that has no relevance, you might respond by saying, ‘While that may be interesting too, I really want to focus on what we are doing to impact the community in a positive way.’”

Dress to impress

If your interview is on camera or involves taking photographs, always ask in advance how you should dress.

Related: What Your Staff’s Attire Says About Your Business

“Solid colors are always best,” she said. “Particularly gray or navy blue suits for men and vibrant solid colors for women. Stay away from any busy patterns, and never wear white or black as it will look very stagnant on screen.”

Consider media training

Just as great media coverage can create a publicity heyday for your small business, a bad interview can have a negative impact on your brand’s reputation — at least in the short term.

“News cycles and consumer memories are short and often forgotten, so most businesses can bounce after a tumble in the road,” said Maniscalco. She advised keeping a close eye on public feedback after the segment, so you can strategize an appropriate response, if one is necessary at all.

Related: Tips for Managing a PR Crisis at Your Small Business

If you know you’re not a naturally gifted communicator or have an extremely important media opportunity on the horizon, consider hiring an expert for some media training. A PR pro can teach you the best techniques for your specific situation and help you be more comfortable in front of the media.

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