PR Tips: Media Relations (Part 2)

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In part one of our media relations series, we discussed your responsibilities for an interview, interview formats and other rules of the game. Today, we take a look at TV and radio talk shows and hosts as well as handling questions from reporters.

Television or Radio Talk Show:

  • Usually involves signing a release form.
  • There may be a pre-interview by the talent coordinator or host. Treat this as the “real thing” since your performance is being judged.
  • The host may or may not meet with you before the show.

About talk show hosts:

  • They can argue with you, make jokes at your expense, air their own prejudices.
  • They are not even required to ask relevant questions, so it’s up to you to make sure you get your point across.
  • Distractions: be prepared for the host to study notes while you’re answering questions. Don’t worry, they are still listening. Also, if the host is fielding questions from the audience, don’t look at the host to answer a question asked by a member of the audience. The host is busy looking for other raised hands.

Local TV News:

  • Local news shows are 30 to 90 minutes long.
  • They have 22 minutes of news per half hour.
  • Each news clip is about 90 – 120 seconds.
  • You will have about 20 seconds to get your message across.
  • 20 seconds is 85 words.
  • So make sure your answers are short, are an entire thought, and are complete enough so that they are not taken out of context or misunderstood.

Print Interviews:

  • The difference between print and broadcast interviews is that in a broadcast interview you relate to the viewer; in print, you relate to the interviewer.
  • The interviewer interprets, synthesizes and illuminates your remarks. So only in this situation can you use jargon, acronyms, or big words the average consumer might not understand.
  • Remember though, not to let down your guard, because a reporter’s eye can see you exactly as a camera would and he can print that information.
  • You may find that some reporters will not have read the press materials and may ask dumb questions. They may just pretend they’re dumb to get a good story. In all cases be patient, courteous, and most important, make sure your remarks are understood so that they won’t be taken out of context.

Handling Questions

Before answering a question, it is important that you identify the issue that has been raised. Often, reporters or talk shows hosts will ask a simple question that sounds complicated because of the words they have chosen. After you have quickly identified the issue, decide whether or not it is better to answer the question with a personal anecdote, facts and statistics or professional judgment. By “training” yourself to think this way, you will help structure and control the interview.

BRIDGING: If the interviewer asks you a question that is phrased negatively, do not avoid it, as it will only be asked again. Instead, “bridge” the conversation to a positive aspect of the issue. This is an enormously important factor in any interview, because it allows you to control the focus and establish your message.

If you find that the interviewer is not interested in your message, but wishes to focus on something else that you have been involved in or affiliated with, you can very politely remind him what you have come here today to talk about.

As the interview is coming to an end, and you have not had the opportunity to make an important point by answering a question, you may simply make the point as a statement.

“Bob, I just want to take a moment to make an important point…”

If you keep the statement brief and to point, the interviewer will not mind you taking the lead.

Check back next week for Part 3 of our ongoing media relations tips.

-Dan Grody, TGPR