Working with the Media – FAQ
One of the most common trainings we provide for clients is our Media Training. After the handful of trainings we’ve conducted with clients and at conferences so far this year, we thought we’d take a moment to show you some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve heard and our best (concise) answers.
What do I do if I’m in an interview (live or otherwise) and get backed into a corner?
Keep in mind that you’re doing the interview to convey a set of messages that your organization needs the public to know. Having said that, always remember that reporters have an objective job to do that doesn’t involve presenting your messages—expect softball questions for feature stories, tougher questions for hard news stories. It’s always good to ask the reporter what their angle is going in. If you do find yourself in a tough spot, rely on the art of bridging.
If you are asked questions that mischaracterize your organization or are otherwise irrelevant to your message, bridge back into it with language like:
- Opinions can differ, but we believe…
- The facts are…
- We’re aware that folks are characterizing the issue that way at present, but that’s not the case. In truth…
- Our organization can’t speak to that, but what I can speak to is…
Always address the question you’ve been asked to some level, but bridge into the information you feel is important to convey.
My organization is in a small media market with no daily newspaper or other major publications to speak of. How can I get my story out?
Many organizations we work with don’t have the luxury (and sometimes challenge) of being in a rich media market in which they are frequently approached for comment. It’s circumstances like these that make relationships with the closest regional media and those that are the most relevant to your industry all the more vital. Never spam media, only approach them with targeted news or feature ideas that are relevant for that publication’s readership. Make a targeted pitch to the reporter at the publication who writes about topics related to your sector. There may not be a daily paper in your town or even your county, but there is a larger publication whose editorial scope encompasses readers in your area. Chances are you won’t get covered frequently, but work to build a compelling story, possibly including other organizations within your market area to make the story more comprehensive. Reach out to online publications. Start a social media following for your organization that maintains relationships with reporters. Many members of the media get story ideas from Facebook and Twitter.
The reporter/editor at the publication I’m trying work with doesn’t know anything about my organization/ my industry/ the subject of my story.
Sounds like an opportunity to us! If a reporter is in the dark about what you do or the story you’re pitching at first blush, the content will be just as far over Joe Public’s head. Use this as an opportunity to educate the publication about your industry and position yourself as a thought leader in the market. That way they’ll come back to you for similar stories as an authority in the future. Break down the story in simple terms that your audience will understand, and the likelihood of the story running will increase. Be sure to show the impact your story has in your industry and beyond.
Other major tips:
- Be a resource. Editors and reporters remember who is helpful and who is not when they’re up against deadline. If they ask for information, get them what you can as quickly as possible. The timely follow up is critical in maintaining a relationship with reporters. If you don’t know the answer, find out the reporter’s deadline and find an answer by then.
- Different strategies for different mediums. Tips for an interview with a newspaper won’t be the same for television or radio. Keep in mind that visuals are everything in TV, that you need to speak to the ear over radio, and that it’s critical to repeat your points with print media. Always consider your audience and the audience/readership of the publication you’re interviewing with.
If you have another questions about how best to work with the media and get the results you want from a story, sound off in the comments below and we’ll answer!