The News Media Won't Bite
At the end of a media training session last week for a client in Vancouver, I asked each person to tell the group the biggest takeaway they got from the session. A young woman smiled and said her biggest takeaway was that she could do it - she now had the confidence to do a media interview and felt she could be successful.
I was thrilled. I'm sure the smile on my face could have reached all the way back to Edmonton from the west coast. I always try to give people confidence and make them feel that they can do solid media interviews and that's why I was so happy to hear her comment.
The reality is, most people are still leery of doing media interviews and there's no reason for it. They're also missing a huge opportunity to promote themselves and their organization.
The Real Fear of Messing Up
The biggest fear people have when doing a media interview is they’re going to “mess up.” They think they’re going to make a mistake in the way they say something and it’s going to embarrass both them and the organization they work for. It’s a real fear and I hear it almost every time I ask what worries people about an interview when doing media training.
There’s a different way to look at it though. What if, through training, experience and knowledge, a person could get really good at speaking to the media? What if they got over that hurdle of fear and concern about media interviews and got to the point of being really good with the media? So good in fact that when a story breaks and the media needs reaction from somebody, you’re the one who gets the call.
The company I worked for last week has this as part of its marketing strategy. It wants its people to be good in front of the media to help enhance their brand and promote the person’s business as well. It’s really smart, but means their people need training and experience.
Don't Worry, Be Prepared
Before you can start thinking about turning a negative into a positive, let’s look at the fear of messing up. As I said it’s real, but it’s based on what so many people see on television that scares them. They see prominent provincial and federal politicians in media scrums with questions coming at them from all angles. They see President Trump walking across a lawn and reporters yelling questions at him and there are 60 Minutes-type interviews where rip-off artists or cheesy politicians are being torn to shreds by a reporter’s cutting questions.
None of these scenarios fit with what happens on a daily basis with local media outlets across Canada. For the people I do media training for, most of the interviews they’ll do will be pre-arranged and pre-recorded. The reporter will want to get their thoughts or opinion on a story in the news. While some of the questions may be negative such as “Why did housing sales drop so badly”, or “Why are you fighting this legislation when it may help consumers”, the reporter is only doing his or her job. Those questions also give you the opportunity to explain your position.
There are times when reporters will seem to be overly negative and want to lead you to specific answers, but that’s all part of the game and proper preparation will result in you giving the answers you want.
Reporters Have a Job to Do
I’ve been in and around the media enough over the last 40 years to know that the vast majority of local news reporters are respectful and only want to get the facts. They may be hoping you’ll have answers that will fit with the story angle they’re working on, but the fact remains that they can’t put words in your mouth.
On occasion, people will recount negative experiences they had with reporters and I’m sure some shoddy reporting occasionally takes place, just like people have the odd bad experience when buying a home or renting a car. In the vast majority of cases, journalists report what people tell them. I have heard many accounts about the story in the newspaper not being exactly what the person said, but I think most of those situations stem from the person being quoted being too close to the situation and for the vast majority of readers, they wouldn’t recognize the difference between what the person said and what was reported. In other words, there’s a lot of grey area involved in many statements. A slightly different shade of grey really doesn’t matter.
Reporters are just trying to get a few comments from you before they move on to interviewing somebody else, or perhaps doing interviews for a different story. The fact of the matter these days is, they simple don’t have time to go out of their way to make you look bad.
The New Benefits of Media Interviews
The other huge benefit of doing media interviews, is the digital footprint left behind.
25 years ago when you did a media interview, it was gone as soon as the newscast was over, or when the newspaper got thrown in the garbage. Today that’s all changed. Interviews done remain on the internet for years and can be used as content by those who gave those interviews.
TV stations will keep stories they did on their website for years. Radio will too and do a Google search for stories from the last decade or so and you’ll find newspaper and magazine articles.
These stories should be added to your website, so when a client is checking your site to see what you say about yourself, they’ll find news stories that others have done.
On top of all these benefits, anytime you do a media story and get a link to the online version you should be sharing it on your social media accounts. You may only be on Facebook, but I saw a recent study that said 84% of all online Canadians have a Facebook account. Why not share that content as much as possible because every time you do it’s another addition to your credibility.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with sharing good, solid content that will help others on your social media accounts. This isn’t about you showing pictures of your kids and the awards they won, or photos from your trip to Europe. It’s about content that others can benefit from. It’s not bragging.
Remember, the news media won’t bite, so stop avoiding reporters and enjoy the benefits of a good media interview.