Effective Media Relations Tips and Tools

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Dealing with the media may not be in your job description. In fact, many organizations have staff members whose sole job is to handle internal and external communications. Still, you never know when you might be called upon to appear in front of a camera or provide a media interview. Regarding media relations, having some basic tips and tools under your belt can help ensure a successful outcome.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Having an open, honest relationship with those who might be interested in telling your organization’s story helps build credibility for you and your place of business, which in turn helps you build public trust and awareness. Good media relationships also help to influence public perception, customer satisfaction, legislative action, and revenue.

 The Golden Rule Applies to Reporters

Remember that reporters have a job to do, just like you do, so keep in mind the Golden Rule – treat the reporter as you would want to be treated.

In general:

  • Be courteous and pleasant.
  • Be accessible.
  • Respond to the inquiry in a timely manner.
  • Don’t sound angry or defensive.
  • Be sure to have a good reason for declining an interview. Remember, if reporters don’t get the information from you, they’ll get it somewhere. If the information comes from a competitor, adversary, or anonymous source, it’s likely not going to be the message you want to convey.

Always Prepare for the Interview

Don’t forego preparing for a media interview. Winging it is never a good idea. Instead:

  • Anticipate and develop responses to the reporter’s questions. Remember, it’s okay to ask reporters what questions they have in advance.
  • Research the media outlet and reporter.
  • Determine the medium’s target audience so you can tailor your message.
  • Become familiar with the facts and issues.
  • Take time to collect your thoughts and other pertinent information for the interview, such as the latest statistics, related happenings and opposing viewpoints.
  • Practice your responses out loud or role-play with someone.

Determine Your SOCO

Before giving a media interview, it’s critical that you determine and develop a Single Overriding Communications Objective or SOCO. These are the two to three key points you want to get across in the interview. These talking points serve as a safe base to return to should the interview take a wrong or unexpected turn. Decide what they are and stick to them.

media relations tips and tools woman being interviewed

Deliver Your Message Like an Expert

It’s not unusual to be a little nervous about giving a media interview. Even the most seasoned public relations professionals still get sweaty palms. Try to relax and always remember you are the subject matter expert, which means you know more than the reporter. If that’s not the case, you might not be the right person to handle the interview.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Set the stage. Tell the reporter the information you plan to cover.
  • Be concise and clear. Focus on informing people rather than impressing them. Talk as if you were explaining your story to your mom or the neighbor kid.
  • Listen carefully to the questions and ask for clarification if you don’t understand them.
  • Stay on track. Don’t ramble or feel the need to fill time.
  • Remember your SOCO. Know what you want to say, say it . . . then say it again.
  • If you don’t like your answer, start over.

 Avoid These Common Interview Mistakes

The don’ts in media relations might be even more important than the dos. Here are some things NOT to do:

  • Don’t lie or make promises you can’t keep.
  • Don’t go off the record – there is no such thing.
  • Don’t get cute or chummy or let your guard down.
  • No jokes – innocent or not, they may end up in the story.
  • Don’t say anything you are not willing to see in print or hear on the airwaves.
  • Never speculate or guess. It’s okay to say you don’t know. If appropriate, offer to get back to the reporter with the answer or another source of information.
  • Never get angry, lose your cool, or belittle a reporter.

The “No Comment” Option

Though you often see and hear this phrase as a common response to reporters’ questions, it’s probably best to avoid using this statement if you can. Saying you have no comment on a matter creates doubt and can make you look dishonest or guilty. Instead, if you can, explain why you are unable to discuss the matter in an interview.

Aways Review and Learn

After the interview, review how it went. Identify strengths and areas for improvement.

In the end, developing positive media relationships really boils down to using common sense. Good luck!

 

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