October 20, 2013
PR people are kind of known for giving a lot of advice, whether it be wanted or not. We give advice on social media, how a brand should act, how to build your public image, how to write emails and how to write press releases. We also love to give advice on job interviews.
But what about the OTHER interviews? You know, the interviews that happen when a journalist calls you asking to speak to an employee because of that press release you sent out and forget about while you were in your tweet chat about how to use social media to build brand recognition.
While everyone is in PR, most people are not public relations in professionals. They don’t deal with media every day and they don’t have to. You can’t assume that they are going to know how to react or what to do. It can happen that someone slips some information hat should be off the record or they get stuck in some journalistic trap that makes them look like an idiot.
Sending someone unprepared is the kiss of death and can completely blow up. Especially with social media. Like anything, bad PR will amplify 10 times more than good PR on the internet and in the media.
Keep the person who will be speaking to the media calm at all times. Some people can’t handle that kind of pressure. Part of keeping them calm is you handling all initial conversations with the journalist. So try to figure out what the interview will entail so you can target the right person in the organization.
Read old articles from the particular journalist so you can see a sample of their writing style and how they use quotes so you can better prepare your talking points. You should also read old articles with any employee who has been in front of the media in the past. You can help avoid things that went wrong in the past or build on things that went well.
Ask for more and expect less from journalists. Sometimes they’ll just tell you what they want exactly so you can prepare your employee. They’re usually not trying to trick you or surprise you. They have specific things they want answered and they want your brand prepared to answer them. The more info you get the more you can help prep your source. The journalist gets what they want and the person doesn’t go off topic and misrepresent the brand.
If you can, you should be in the room with them. This will give you the opportunity to interject if the employee is uncomfortable or stumbles on a question they weren’t expecting. It will give everyone some much needed comfort. A lone ranger is never a good thing for a brand. However, some journalists hate when you sit in on the interview. Be courteous (I’ll repeat this message over and over) and ask the journalist if it would be okay or let them know you will be doing it so they aren’t caught off guard when you’re in the room with them. You’re just there for moral support and to keep the employee on track. The show isn’t about you and you’re not to be quoted.
Do your research on the topic beforehand. There could be something related that might be coming up that you haven’t had time to promote yet. Use your employee to casually promote other messages.
Like this blog says, determine some rules with the reporter beforehand. Besides time limits, they can include things like location, subject matter (e.g. in entertainment, a PR person might ask that the journalist not ask questions about a break-up.)