The Pivot – 5 Deft Moves to Save a Client’s Media Interview from Certain Death

You’re sitting in on what is otherwise been a fairly routine client-reporter call. Everyone on the phone gets in the how-do-you-dos. You hit the mute button, which is your friend, and then just listen. The journalist outlines what she aims to cover on the call—standard. Your client responds approvingly with “ah has” and “sures”—standard. But then, you’re blind-sided and that sounds something like:

Client: “Actually, our business model is in no way affected by such events. I’m not so sure I can help you here.”

You know that dreadful buzz from Family Feud when contestants answer incorrectly? Yeah, I hear it, too. It gets louder.

Reporter: “Well, then why are we talking to each other right now?”

Client: “…”

Oof. May you never experience such professional discomfort; however, on the off chance you do, here’s one way to coach your client into turning possible failure into certain opportunity..

1) Gracefully decline the opportunity by acknowledging that you do have a story to tell.

Sample remark: “You know what, I don’t think I’m exactly the right fit for what you’re covering right now. But at the same time, there is a chance that what our company does fall right in line with your beat. Now, I know you’re on a deadline, but if I may, I’d like to give you a quick 3-minute elevator pitch on what we do. Then, we can get to a place to see where and if we should fit as a source on your story list.”

2) Cite specific examples of the journalist’s coverage and compare it  to what you’ve been reading. If he or she tweets, weigh in on some of that conversation, too:

Sample remark: “I read your recent piece on small businesses and was wondering if you caught what the Herald wrote about that very topic. I liked yours better because it highlighted a growing issue in this country.”

3) Introduce the journalist to your business by talking about some of the upcoming events, be they financially driven or community based.

Sample remark: “Over the next six months we’re rolling out this community development program in the Pacific Northwest that we believe will transform the way we, and even our competitors, conduct business in that region. Our customers stand to benefit just as much as our top line growth initiative.

4) Invite them for a peek inside the tent with an air of exclusivity if applicable:

Sample remark: “It’s unlike us to show members of the media what’s happening inside our company, but we’ve been talking about amending those ways, and maybe now is the time to start. Are you available to come visit us and take a look at the operation? It might help you get a better understanding not just of what we do, but how this industry functions.”

5) Extend a hard line to them, indicating they can contact you anytime for a story.

Sample remark: “Why don’t you just call me directly the next time you think I could be the right fit for a story. Yeah…I might have to put you through the approval ringer, but let’s start by figuring out together whether or not I’m the right voice.”


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Twitter: @kirdahy
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