Frankly Speaking PR Tips
to Innovative Communications Solutions
Published Monthly by Frank Public Relations Worldwide for Business Executives and Communications Professionals Eager to Enhance Business Performance and Reputation
Defining PR: "When the circus comes to town and you paint a sign about it, that's advertising. Put the sign on the back of an elephant, and march it through town, that's promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor's flower bed, that's publicity. And, if you can get the mayor to comment about it, that's public relations. Finally, if there is an exchange of money for the right to see the circus, then that's sales." I have quoted PR guru Lee Solters, one of the most respected PR men in our country.
Controlling the Media Interview!
Controlling the Media Interview
Whose job is it to control the interview process the reporter or the interviewee? Well, it depends on whom you ask. Since we are all potential media interviewees, let us take the position that WE are in control of the interview process!
Controlling the interview process means that you are knowledgeable and ready to take charge well in advance of the deadline for the interview. It also means that you have the confidence and expertise to stay in charge once the interview takes place.
The most important thing to remember is this: It is YOUR agenda not the reporters' agenda that matters most.
Stick to what you know, what you want the public to know (via the reporter), and stick to what you would not mind seeing in 36 inch font across the front page of the LA or NY Times! If you do not want it printed do not say it. If you do not want to see yourself on camera or hear yourself on the radio saying something simply do not say it. Really, it could not be simpler in concept, yet, very tough in execution for most of us.
Before the Interview
Here are some guidelines that you should review and answer before the interview takes place to allow YOU to be in control:
Once the Interview Starts
- Know the topic
- What the information is being used for
- Who else is being interviewed?
- The expected duration of the interview
- What is expected from you?
- What are the ground rules is it on the record, off the record, or background only?--Note: Never speak off the record!
- Write out your key messages and builds to the messages, practice these, and write them on index cards so you can refer to them during the interview process
- Do your homework. Be sure you research the reporter to understand his/her writing and reporting style. Become familiar with the media outlet.
Once the interview starts, you should remain focused and positive. Remember, the development of a theme and key messages is part of a larger agenda you should have going into the interview to market the company and its products, policies and/or positions.
It is possible your agenda and your point of view will be much different from what the reporter brings to the interview. Therefore, in addition to staying focused on your key messages, you need to take charge of the direction and tone of the interview.
Learn to Bridge
In most cases, the reporter will ask questions or make statements that knock you off track. It is your responsibility to climb back on the key message car to bring the interview back on track. Certain terms and phrases can help to control an interview. These terms will help you establish your position statement and theme and help you get back to your main or key points.
When you want to acknowledge what the reporter has asked you, yet know you need to move back to your key message, use phrases like: "Let us look at it from a broader/narrower perspective," or "There is another important concern, that is" These transitional phrases are excellent tools for building a bridge between the reporter's questions and your key message.
Other bridging examples include:
Negatives and Hypotheticals
- "That's not my area of expertise, so I would not be comfortable discussing this topic what I do know, however is" --Add a key message
- "That's an interesting point, but it's not the real issue, which is" --Add a key message
- "I'm not familiar with that but what I do know/what I do believe is" --Add a key message
Don't repeat negatives or comment on hypotheticals or extreme examples. Often times a reporter will phrase questions in a negative or hypothetical way to get you to repeat their terminology or comment on unusual or worst case scenarios. Remember It is YOUR agenda! Avoid this trap by using words and phrases you are familiar with and reinforce your own key messages. Say for example, "That's not my area of expertise, but what I do know is" message.
The bottom line is this: NEVER comment on hypotheticals you are not expected to have a Ph.D. in Crystal Ball reading. Use extreme examples to your advantage by pointing out more common and hopefully positive examples. It is okay to tell the reporter you do not have a response, that you do not know the answer to a question. Do not make up an answer because you feel obligated to respond to the reporter. Just because a reporter asks a question does not mean that you actually know the answer. This is different from avoiding answering the question. Tune in next month for helpful hints on avoiding responding to quicksand questions.
'Silence is Golden' Not just a RULE to keep kids quiet
"Silence is golden" and "I don't know" adopt these two mantras for peace of mind. One common technique used by reporters to elicit additional commentary and elaboration is to pause for long periods between questions and/or answers. Please do not fall for this trap. Do not feel compelled to fill the silence. Also, if you don't know the answer to a question, tell the reporter that, and offer to find the answer at a later time.
Reporters are not all created equal
We tend to think that every reporter is sharp, well versed, and up-to-date on our specific industry and product/service niche. When they ask us questions, they really know a great deal about us.
Take caution this may or may not be the case. Some reporters may have immense knowledge while others may not. For this reason, be sure you understand the level of knowledge and expertise the reporter brings to the interview process.
Offer those that may not have the required expertise additional background, definitions, or resources that they would find helpful. Although most reporters will not allow you to review your interview before it airs or is printed, you may suggest your availability to provide additional clarity to the reporter as he or she is preparing the interview for distribution. It is also a great idea to ensure that the concepts you use in your interview are spelled out for the reporter before you leave the interview. It is a great idea to have commonly used words used in your business niche defined and available as a glossary resource on your website. You can then refer reporters to your organization's website for additional clarity as an interview follow-up tool.
On the record, Off the record Confused?
There are some ground rules in the interview process and phrases that you should be comfortable with when talking with a reporter. "On the Record" means that everything you say to the reporter can be used and attributed to you. "Off the Record" means that the reporter wants to know the answer, but will not use the information. Never say anything "Off the Record" it is a concept that really does not exist! "Not for Attribution" or "Background Only" means that you or your company will not be identified with the information you provide.
Let us be very clear about these words. You should always keep in mind one basic rule: If you do not want to see it in print or hear in on the airwaves do not say it! This means there truly is no "Off the Record," "Not for Attribution," or "Background Only" statements ever made to a reporter by an in control interviewee.
Remember this an interview is never a conversation with a friend, and you do not need to give away the store! Never say anything that would upset you if you were quoted. If you do not say it, it cannot be attributed to you.
There are two additional areas that deserve special mention handling hostile situations with reporters, and the basic ground rules. You may encounter a reporter who tends to be abrasive or disagrees with you. There are several ways to neutralize the negative reporter and avoid a bad interview. When you recognize this type of reporter, stay focused and return to your key messages as a calming guide to help you stay on course. In the interview, you will also need to politely and respectfully correct any mistakes a reporter makes. Do this by restating your key message, be kindly assertive when reporters interrupt, and move the answers to areas you want to talk about YOUR agenda your key messages.
This brief guide is a great starting point. There is so much to learn and understand about the interview process. In future installments, we will talk about more specific ways to covert the interview process into a winning media outcome and further establish you as the reigning expert, thought-leader, and go to spokesperson in your area of specialty.
Watch for next month's installment: How to Deal with Hostile Situations. If you are waiting for a great opportunity to be contacted by the media for quotes and comments, take a proactive measure today. Your phone simply will not ring on its own. Call Frank PR Worldwide to find out how you can become a recognized thought-leader. Contact us at 818.735.3591, or firstname.lastname@example.org. www.frankpr.com
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Frank Public Relations Worldwide is an innovative, results-oriented marketing communications company focused on the dynamic alignment of business development, strategic marketing and public and employee relations. Frank Public Relations Worldwide is backed by three decades of creating winning PR campaigns for a global client base. Founded in 1999 by award winning public relations expert Peggy C. Frank, MBA. Frank Public Relations Worldwide is renowned for communication and engagement skills as well as a proven ability to train and mentor at all levels of an organization to both deliver consistent messaging and to enhance performance and profitability.
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Frankly Speaking™ newsletter and Frankly Speaking™ Tip Sheets are produced by Frank Public Relations Worldwide, www.frankpr.com. Frankly Speaking provides innovative communications solutions for business executives and communications professionals eager to enhance business performance, reputation, and revenue.
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