Every time you open your mouth and mention your company in public..it is there. Forever. It can be found and used FOR or AGAINST you until the end of time. One Google search of your name can reveal all. Great! Unless what you said is not well thought out, untrue, off the mark, or just plain “not good.” Now more than ever you have one shot to get it right. One shot to say something useful…and if it is said well and to the point…you can ride that “Google-able” moment all the way into the PR sunset. If not. Oops. People now have the leisurely privilege of going back, re-reading, analyzing and doing it all over again. They might even share it on Facebook for all their clients to critique and add personal color commentary.
If you have not truly said what you mean and mean what you say (cliche but true), it matters until the end of time.
All publicity is not good publicity. Not any more. And that is why spokespeople and CEO’s need to be ready for what I call your “Red Light Moment.” That moment when the literal…or figurative “red light” on the camera shines in your eye and you are “on.” It is fielding that first question from a reporter and nailing it. It is looking into an audience of yawning executives and demanding their attention. What are you trying to say? Who are you talking to? What are you wearing? (yes it is important).
Learning how to prepare for, and better yet control an interview or a presentation is learned. It is not something that comes naturally to most. It is not something that is normally taught in business school. And in my experience even some of the most successful and confident business owners don’t get it right and don’t take a moment to realize they need coaching.
So what do you do when the media comes knocking?
One…be thankful! With the news cycle as crazy as it is now? Congratulations you have gotten someone’s attention. Check that box.
Two..realize that all interviews are not created equal. Ask questions! This is your moment, your company’s future..take some control. Some things you need to ask:
Who is doing the interview? Believe it or not many people never ask. You should know who is asking the questions, do your research and see their style.
What is the angle of the story? Is this something generated from a recent press release? Is my company / product fitting into a trend piece you are doing? Are you in crisis mode and reacting? If you don’t get a firm grip on this from the get go you already have one foot in the PR grave.
How long do you need? If the reporter is going to take up an hour of your time…say no. Unless it is “60 Minutes” and you know this is a piece that is friendly fire and “all good” …set some limits. “I have a half hour, does that make sense?” Don’t fall into the time trap. More time equals more chances to blabber on and say things that don’t matter. And…time is money and your time is valuable.
Is this live or taped? Again one of the no brainers…but if you don’t know to ask you won’t! A live interview, such as a radio interview or satellite interview is tricky. Certain rules apply and a few good tips and training goes a long way. If it is taped or will be edited…ask if you can see the final cut before it airs or goes to print. Most of the time (as they should), a reporter should say no…but it gives you an edge and let’s the reporter know that you know what’s up. And who knows maybe they will give you the opportunity to get a look before the rest of the world.
Am I confident I can control the interview? This is a question you have to ask yourself and have to answer honestly. In many situations you will not have to defend yourself or your team,or squash a crisis dead in its tracks. But you should know how to. Even in a vague company profile piece you should already know how you want the final product to shape up because you have done your homework and know how to weave your messaging into a variety of answers. You should know how to point out your strengths while not ducking from the “gotcha” moments that could scream out your weaknesses.
Am I prepared? Can you ad lib the boiler plate of your latest press release in a way that mirrors the actual written word? Do you HAVE a boiler plate? What is the headline in before mentioned press release and what are the three things that make it newsworthy? What are you willing to disclose when asked about company profits and what is top secret? If you can’t react immediately…you are dead. You will start searching for what you THINK the reporter WANTS to hear instead of telling the interviewer what they need to hear to tell your story.
Preparation works and knowing your brand better than anyone else AND knowing how to talk about it with a strategy and purpose will set you apart from the others.
Getting it right over and over again is hard. Getting it right the first time is crucial.
If you have had success in the media…that is huge. Great job. But I bet you can go back and look at your answers, your body language, and your missed opportunities to better shape the story and know you can do better. If you are still waiting for your first “Red Light Moment” breath a sigh of relief and know that help is there you can arm yourself with skills that you need zero in and make it count.
So is all publicity good? No…but all good interviews and messaging can be GREAT.
By Kristen Daly