Dealing With Media Can Be Both Good and Bad; Being Prepared Is Key

Whether you are hoping to spread the word about a new product or service, working to elevate your brand’s public profile or responding to a crisis, media coverage can undoubtedly get your company noticed.

However, far too many people today believe they can simply “wing it” when communicating with reporters or the press. I believe this is a critical mistake.

Why? From interacting with the media as part of an interview or press release, to reacting to a controversial news situation, it’s important to understand that you are not just talking to one person; rather, you are spreading your message to hundreds of thousands of readers, viewers, clients and referral sources.

How You Handle Communicating With the Media is Crucial to Success

Unfortunately, there can be devastating consequences if you don’t know what you are doing when interacting with the media.

The good news is, when handled strategically and skillfully, the rewards are incomparable in determining how readers, viewers, customers and the general public perceive your brand and your organization.

Like all good things, a successful media relations strategy is the result of hard work and careful planning. In fact, I encourage all entrepreneurs and businesses to incorporate media training as an integral part of any professional development efforts.

What to Include in Your Media Training

It’s important to realize that no two press interviews will be the same. Furthermore, print, radio, TV and online/digital interviews all differ considerably.

Here are a few tips to consider before or during any interview, or when communicating in any other manner with the media:

  • Develop your elevator pitch. Write down three key points that you want to get across to viewers or readers. This is also a good time to polish your pitch, especially if the interview is via print. It’s smart to have at least three different length pitches prepared, as well. That way, you can have a pitch ready to fit any scenario.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Think about what questions you might get asked and how you would respond. Be sure to consider that one question you would not want to be asked and how you would actually manage it.
  • Stay the course. Even if an interviewer is intense or forceful, always remain confident and calm. Also, don’t avoid answering questions — it can be interpreted as if you are hiding something. If you want to steer the conversation in another direction, give a concise answer first, and then connect it back to your key messages.
  • Remember your audience. Use conversational language and never weave in industry jargon or acronyms that other people may not understand.
  • Be honest and establish trust. Let’s face it: honesty really is the best policy. When dealing with the media, it is especially crucial to remain transparent, as being exposed for altering the truth can lead to an expensive, reputation-damaging PR nightmare.
  • Use the ‘less is more’ approach. Learn how to be quotableand striveto offer creative sound bites. Keep your quotes and comments concise, to the point, conciseand try to bring a unique perspective to the table.
  • Be proactive. While a journalist may not be searching for you (or your business) specifically, they will often reach out on social media when trying to flesh out a story. An excellent source, HARO,(Help a Reporter Out) allows you to sign up for free email alerts that can let you know when a reporter is looking for sources that relate to your industry, business or brand. You also can like, share and comment on reporters’ articles or blog posts so they recognize you from previous interactions when they need assistance down the road.

Managing Crisis Communications

Finally, when it comes to navigating communications during a crisis, it’s essential to realize that each “crisis” comes with its own unique set of circumstances and challenges. And while certain tactics may be appropriate to use in one situation, those same methods may not be suitable for another.

The key, I believe, is putting transparency above all else. Being honest and getting the facts straight, even if it may put a company or person in a negative light at first, it is the most effective way to minimize the length of time the media will spend covering an issue, as well as the duration of public disappointment.

Remember to be thoughtful and accurate, and always follow-up with new details as they become available. There are numerous ways to communicate what is happening within your organization — from social media, TV and radio to email and text messaging. These tools can help spread information fast and can be ideal channels for clarifying confusing details that may be circulating amongst the public.

The bottom line: no matter what resources you use during a crisis, the most critical element is to get the right information out to the public and to manage that as best you can. Developing a strategic crisis communications plan before a potential event will only make the process easier for you and your brand moving forward.

Good luck and “May the Press be with you”!