This post originally appeared on startupnation.com/grow-your-business
Media coverage is a smart way to build exposure for your startup. A positive media interview about your business can help not only increase your visibility and build a solid reputation, but it also has the power to help you achieve your goals, like boosting your brand and increasing sales.
Securing media coverage for your business isn’t an easy feat, but it has the opportunity to be worth your time and effort, if you make the most of it.
Whether this is your first media interview or you’ve already got a few under your belt, consider the following 11 tips to help make your interview a success:
Properly identify yourself
Prior to or at the start of the interview, take the time to properly introduce yourself and provide exactly how you’d like the journalist to reference you in his or her story. This includes not only your name, your company name and location and how long you’ve been in business but also your title and any accreditation you have that increases your authority as an expert or thought leader.
Know your key messages
Prior to every interview you do, take time to create up to five key messages that are relevant and will be most meaningful to you and your business.
Key messages should answer the 5 Ws:
For example, if you’re launching a new product, you’ll want to share what the product is, details about when and where it will be available and why your product should be purchased over others on the market.
Be clear on what you don’t want to say
Just as important as knowing what you do want to say is knowing what you don’t want to say. To ensure you don’t talk about anything you’re not willing to share, create a list of topics, facts or details you don’t want to talk about so you know exactly what they are. As you practice your key messages, keep what you’re steering clear of close by as a reference.
Practice your pitch
Before, during and after your interview, you’ll most likely experience a roller coaster of emotions, including excitement, fear, nervousness and anxiousness, just to name a few. This is completely normal and may continue to happen even after dozens of interviews. As nerves and energy pinball throughout your body during the interview, you may find yourself talking and talking and talking. Perhaps you talk until you’re down a rabbit hole that has absolutely no relevance to you, your business or the interview.
Print and online journalists are restricted by word count, so answers that are too long may need to be shortened for length, increasing the chance they are taken out of context or even cut completely. For broadcast interviews, rambling wastes precious time during the interview that could be used to share information you actually wanted to convey.
To increase the likelihood of being quoted correctly as well as sounding professional and on point, offer a direct response that is only a few sentences. One of the best ways to combat rambling is to embrace the power of strategic pausing. Pausing for three to five seconds before answering provides an opportunity for you to breathe, collect your thoughts and deliver a composed answer.
Don’t get too comfortable
As your interview progresses, you may find you start to get comfortable with the interviewer. While it’s great you’re finding your stride and are shedding nerves, don’t let your guard down and get too comfortable. Keep the interview professional, and stay the course with your talking points. Don’t take any risks by sharing information “off the record.” The best mindset to have during an interview is that anything you say or share is going to be published, and you’re on the record until there is a definitive ending. This means actually hanging up or walking out of a studio, not just when the journalist stops recording an in-person interview.
Don’t be negative about your competitors
You’re being interviewed to talk about yourself, your business or your industry. Talking about your competitors simply gives them the free press you’ve worked so hard to secure. Avoid talking about your competitors, and don’t badmouth people or companies by name. Keep in mind: everything you say during an interview can be used and attributed to you. Trash talking others doesn’t look good and can leave a bad impression not only with the journalist but also current and potential customers.
Be prepared to answer every question
There may be situations in which a journalist asks you a question that either you don’t know the answer to or you’re not qualified to answer. Never say, “No comment.” In these instances, it’s important not to fall victim to feeling the need to answer the question you’re given, but it’s even more important to keep the dialogue going.
Use this opportunity to transition the conversation back to what you are able to talk about. To do so, use pivot phrases to help move you back to where you’re comfortable answering questions.
Here are examples of pivot phrases to use:
- “That’s an interesting question. It’s important to take a step back and remember that…”
- “I’ll have to check on that. I can send over exact numbers or details after our call.”
- “I can’t really speak to that, but what I can tell you is…”
If you’re asked a question about details or data that you can’t share, like proprietary information, revenue numbers or details that wouldn’t position you or your business in the best light, simply state that you’re not currently sharing that information at this time.
Delineate facts from opinions
During your media interview, you will most likely want to share a variety of different types of information. Clearly stating what you are sharing as being a fact or your opinion instantly builds your credibility and helps position you as an expert. When stating statistics or findings from a study, be prepared to give the exact source to the journalist so they can properly cite it. To ensure it is understood that you’re expressing your opinion rather than a hard fact, simply open your statement with “I believe” or “In my opinion.”
Restate the question in your answer
Answering media interview questions in full sentences, starting with restating the question, has two very valuable outcomes, especially in broadcast or recorded audio interviews. First, using this methodology buys you a few seconds to give your brain time to recall how you’ve successfully answered the question in the past. Second, answering questions in full sentences provides more opportunities for you to be quoted without losing context.
As you get to the end of the media interview, use key phrases to emphasize the key messages and points you most want to share.
Here are a few examples of how you can get one last strong push for your key message:
- “The most important thing for everyone to know is…”
- “If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s…”
- “As a reminder…”
- “I can’t emphasize enough that…”
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
You’ve probably heard the saying “practice makes perfect.” It’s a bunch of baloney. Practicing for an interview will never make it perfect.
You need to come to terms with the fact that you’re most likely never going to reflect on an interview without any criticism of yourself and your answers. You’ll always be thinking about how you could have weaved something else in or done something differently. Even the most media savvy experts still feel this way.
While you can’t that you’re going to have a perfect media interview every time, what you can do is ensure you’re prepared 100% of the time. When you put in the work ahead of time, you and your business will reap the benefits.
Key takeaways on media interviews
Whether you’re preparing for your first media interview or 50th, approach each opportunity for media coverage the same way: practice your pitch, remain professional and know the exact key messages you wish to convey during the interview. By following the steps I’ve outlined above, you’re more likely to hit a home run interview, leading to a boost in brand exposure and (hopefully!) a boost in sales.