PRo Tips: How to Help Subject Matter Experts Ace Media Interviews

As public relations professionals, securing interest from the media to speak to a client is a huge win – but the job isn’t done there. Going the extra mile to ensure spokespeople enter interviews with all the tools and preparation they need to succeed is part of being a valuable partner to them and a great way to remind clients of the value you bring to the table as a PR expert.

Implementing the following tips from The Bliss Group’s Media Specialist Team will set you and your clients up for success ahead of media interviews.

  1. Set Expectations and Guidelines

Public perception matters and media relations is a powerful tool to move the needle if used correctly. It can elevate spokespeople and influential C-suite executives’ thought leadership platforms, but it can also tarnish reputations just as quickly.

While trust and transparency are valuable in professional relationships, discretion and silence are golden, too. Prepare subject matter experts to be careful about what and how much they divulge to journalists.

No matter what rapport you may build with them, always remind spokespeople to assume that everything they say is on the record. The reporter can quote anything and everything the spokesperson says but they can also quote non-verbal cues such as facial expression, body gesture and hand movement. Advise your spokespeople to speak in quotable soundbites, stick to what they know and answer succinctly.

  1. Check the Reporter’s Recent Coverage and Social Channels

Conducting due diligence on a reporter’s recent coverage can prepare you and subject matter experts for how they approach stories. Sometimes recent coverage might seem “off” because they are temporarily covering for a colleague or their publication may employ them across multiple industries – in fact, Reuters puts reporters on markets coverage rotation regardless of beat.

Looking through recent coverage also allows your client to be better equipped during an interview. Including links to relevant stories in a briefing document will ensure that they’re apprised of the reporter’s beat and interests, which can allow for a more fruitful discussion.

Checking reporter’s social channels could also alert you to news that they are following or events taking place in their personal life that are worth commenting on or congratulating. Being aware of these details and sharing them with your client before they go in for an interview will make them look smart and considerate, placing them in a favorable light with the reporter right off the bat.

  1. Anticipate and Plan for Uncomfortable Questions

While a reporter might not intentionally try to trip up your client, it’s important to keep in mind that they could ask tough or uncomfortable questions. This is especially true for CEO profiles. These questions could be relatively straightforward, such as inquiries into poor company performance or financials, or more salacious, such as questions about the client’s personal life or company HR issues.

Either way, it’s best to let your client know that tough questions could come up and to coach them on the best ways to respond using effective bridging devices. Setting up mock interviews where your client can practice responding to a question live and providing written talking points that your client can reference during an interview can help to ease nerves and produce a better outcome for all parties.

Interviews can be nerve wracking and the stories that come from them have the potential to move the needle positively or negatively for a company. Taking the time to do your research on a reporter and adequately prepare spokespeople for an interview can make all the difference – ensuring that everyone shows up with their best foot forward.

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