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Getting the Most from Interviews

by Yvonne Hilder

Recently an excellent article about corporate media relations appeared in theThe Globe and Mail. The article featured media trainer Jim Gray, a senior consultant with Media Profile, a public relations firm which helps organizations get the most from contact with the media. Jim formerly worked for theThe Halifax Herald Chronicle, The Toronto Starand The CBC.

I asked Jim what he'd done to achieve such positive coverage. Did Media Profile have tips to share with our readers? The did, and here they are:

Prepare Your Messages. Determine what your three or four key messages will be before the interview and deliver them, even if the 'right' questions aren't asked.

Know Your Audience. You're speaking to the public and your employees through the journalist.

Stay Focused. Answer the questions asked of you, but use each answer as a way to market one of your key messages.

Correct Bias. If a question contains false or biased information, calmly correct the journalist before answering.

Stick To The Facts. Don't speculate. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. Then quickly get back to the reporter with the needed information.

Empathize. Respond to emotionally loaded questions with sensitivity. Show concern for the misfortune of others.

Be Careful. There's no such thing as "off the record." If you don't want something to be printed or aired, don't say it. Be on guard at all times.

Think Ahead. Consider the questions you'll likely be asked. Rehearse your responses. Practice your key messages.

Show Confidence. You're the expert. You should look, act and sound it. But don't overdo it. Don't be arrogant.

Be Professional. Treat every reporter with courtesy and respect.

Be Responsive. Be open and honest. Return all media calls promptly. Keep in mind that an interview with a journalist is an important sales opportunity. Take advantage of it.

Jim Gray can be reached at Media Profile: (416) 504-8464.

See also:
Guidelines for successful interviews
Off the Record
After the interview
Backing it Up
Involve Your Audience During TV Interviews
Oh, the Mistakes Spokespeople Make: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Blow an Interview
When Bad Things Happen to Good Spokespeople: Handling Tough Interviews
Meeting the Media Face-to-Face
Sources Media Training