By L. Drew Gerber
Giving a media interview is like going on a first date: It will lay the groundwork for your relationship with the journalist interviewing you and make you attractive for future interviews with other media.
You’ve caught their attention. Now you need to show them you can deliver a professional interview that meets their needs and exceeds their expectations. Do that, and you are on your way to a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship that will pay returns in publicity results for years to come.
The key is to be prepared. Business professionals who deal with the media regularly undergo extensive media training to learn what to say, how to say it and how to make the best impression in broadcast and print interviews.
Professional media trainers give their clients many practical tips to deliver a knockout interview, from posture and speaking recommendations that convey confidence and authority down to specifics on how to dress and groom for the interview. Those are all important. But just as important is remembering the key messages that shape you as a brand the public will remember.
Companies have long known the importance of making a name for their products and services to set themselves apart from their competition. Today’s rapidly shifting economy, combined with our increasingly Web-driven communications, make it essential for individuals to constantly assess, update and promote their personal brands. Your media interview offers the chance to do this and shine.
The easy way to define what makes your expertise special is to practice your “elevator pitch.” This is the one where you are on the elevator with Oprah, Larry King or Glenn Beck and have from the second floor to the 15th floor to explain why your expertise should be featured on their show.
You would have to make your point in three sentences. What would you want Oprah, Larry or Glenn to know? You would need to get their attention before they exited the elevator. How would you do that? Through snappy sound bites and a perfect pitch, that’s how.
You can imagine, Oprah, Larry or Glenn would say, “Oh, great, I’m being pitched.” Your job is to be so interesting that they follow that thought with “Wait, you just said something that perked up my ears. Now, what did you say?” Then you’re in.
Before you have your first media interview, be clear on what defines you as an expert. Your interests, talents, skills, education, hobbies and perspectives are unique. Your personal brand is where your expertise and your passions meet. Know that first, and you will be able to connect with the media in your interview in a way that’s authoritative, compelling and leaves the media wanting more.
Giving a great media interview is also about promoting yourself in such a way that you do not appear to be promoting yourself. This is all about giving the media what they want, answering their questions and avoiding blatant self-promotion of your book, product or service.
As with the first date when you want to make a great impression, concentrate on what your interviewer needs and useful information you can give their audience. Remember, the interview is your best promotion. Take a backseat to the interview’s promotional power and enjoy the publicity results. Chances are they will identify you by your profession or company, perhaps including your Web address or contact information.
Now that we’ve covered the big principles to make your media interview amazing, let’s discuss some basic tips to assure you are on your game and everything goes smoothly:
- Don’t let a bad connection ruin it. If the interview is going to be over the phone make sure you use a landline, not your cell. A dropped call or a bad connection can lead to confusion, wasted time, or worse, for you and the person interviewing you. It’s the same reason you don’t talk to your date with you mouth full. Good crisp connections are the key to achieving the publicity results you desire.
- Dress to impress. If you’re doing television, give some thought into what you’ll be wearing. Ask yourself, “How will I look on set?” You want to stand out, not blend in. Solids are preferred. Bright colors are best. Avoid black and patterns (stripes, plaids, etc.) as they don’t play well with cameras. Wear great jewelry and great shoes (just in case that gets on screen). Also, bring an extra outfit just in case the anchor is wearing the same one, and do your makeup/hair (most studios will have a stylist on the scene, but you should be prepared just in case). An easy way to prepare your best look is to watch Headline News and just model yourself after the anchors you like. It’s even a good idea to dress professionally for a phone interview. You’re likely to be more confident in your professional attire than in your pajamas. Publicity success lies in a person’s confidence.
- Help them to focus on your expertise. Send in a suggested list of questions for the interviewer to use. (Note: Do not try this before a first, second, or third date.) You’ll be able to answer these questions in a very succinct and clear manner, making great sound bites that can be pulled out and used in print articles, getting more publicity for you. It’s always a good idea to review your online press kit prior to the interview as well. Print media in particular will appreciate any background, supporting studies or research you can provide to back up your expertise.
The best free publicity tip is also the Scouts motto: Be prepared. Lack of preparation is a publicist’s nightmare — yours too. So dress up, know your sound bites ahead of time, and review your online press kit.
Being interviewed by the media is the best free publicity you can get. So do all you can to be the best interviewee (date) the journalist has ever had so that you will be the first person they call when they need a spokesperson in your area of expertise.
Remember, good publicity begets more good publicity. When you come across as a polished professional in your media interviews, journalists will take note and call you for many future dates.
About the Author:
L. Drew Gerber is CEO of www.PublicityResults.com and creator of www.PitchRate.com, a free media connection service for journalists, experts, and publicists. Sign up now for free publicity advice including a free online marketing course. Gerber’s business practices and staffing innovations have been revered by PR Week, Good Morning America and the Christian Science Monitor. His companies handle international PR campaigns and his staff develops online press kits for authors, speakers and companies with Online PressKit 24/7, a technology he developed (www.PressKit247.com). Contact L. Drew Gerber at: AskDrew@PublicityResults.com or call him at 828-749-3548.