Tuesday, August 16

The do's and don'ts of "do's and don'ts."

When you're looking for help with interview coaching, you get what you pay for.

Try Googling "media relations" sometime, and see what turns up. There are a number of firms out there that put information on the internet (this one included.) What they rely on is a mistaken public notion that "if it's in print, it must be true."

Here's some of the advice I recently found on the PR Zoom Newswire:
"When talking with a reporter:

• Make a note of the reporter’s name and the name of the media when the caller first offers identification. This serves two purposes: you have an accurate record so you can follow up to see how the story appears; and you can use the reporter’s name during the interview, to help you build rapport with the reporter.
Boy, does this get abused. I can't tell you how many people I interviewed who thought that starting every other sentence with "Well, Ike" or threw in a "The problem with our widgets, Ike, is..." It actually got in the way of getting the information in a usable form, and was highly annoying. You don't talk to your friends that way, do you?
• Provide sufficient evidence for your statements. Reporters love numbers: try to give them numbers whenever you can -- particularly when it helps you sell your own agenda.
Yeah, reporters love numbers. NOT! The vast majority of reporters are actually very bad at math (just like the rest of society.) Some wear it as a badge of honor. Unless they operate on a specialized beat that requires background knowledge, you can count on a reporter to need help deciphering statistics, financial statements, polling data, economics, and just about anything else involving numbers you can't reach with your fingers. Seriously. If you just throw a stats at them, you are just as likely to have them misreported or misrepresented out of ignorance. Give them the context, and make sure they understand them. Don't try to obscure the truth with a flash of digits.

Reporters are, as a rule, experts at nothing. Treat them with respect, but don't assume they know everything. There is a lot of ego invested in being a "public figure" through the media, and many reporters (the young ones especially) will be hesitant to ask a question that appears elementary, or even stupid.

Being good conversationalists, they skirt the issue of the "dumb question" in the hopes of gleaning the answer through later context. If you've got a delicate detail, point of law, or sticky statistic, by all means take the extra time to make sure the reporter "gets it." You're less likely to insult their intelligence, and more likely to cause them a sigh of relief for answering the question they wouldn't dare ask.

(Note: Yeah, I use the internet to market myself too. The difference is that I have 16 years experience in news from which to tell you how a reporter thinks. I also have dozens of "articles" on this very blog that back up what I proclaim. Caveat Emptor.)


At 8/21/2005 07:31:00 PM, Anonymous John M. said...

On your first point about using the reporter's name. There are some (OK, more than some) whose egos won't let them resist a soundbite that has their name in it.

Sad but very true.

If I were giving a one-on-one interview and I wanted to up my chances of a particular point being included -- and having that point come directly from my mouth -- I would never fail to include the reporter's name in the answer.

At 8/26/2005 12:09:00 AM, Anonymous Randy Steinman said...

This doesn't relate to actual intvu's, but...

As someone who assigns his department, I am tired of P.R. types who drop the names of other media when trying to sell me on their story.

"You better have a camera here", they'll say. "Because Channels 5, 9 and 10 have already said they're going to be here."

Of course, were I to CALL a friend at 5, 9 or 10, they would inform me that they've been assured *our* shop has also promised to staff the event.

Come on, don't try to blackmail us. We have a pretty good idea of how newsworthy the event is. It'll sell itself on its own merits.

Besides, I generally don't care what other media is there. Honest I don't.

Frankly, if someone is resorting to try and 'scare me' into covering an event, I'll probably ask myself why.

At 8/26/2005 01:59:00 AM, Blogger Ike said...

For those who don't know, "John M." is an experienced reporter with a great reputation in several big markets.

Randy Steinman is the sports director for the CTV affiliate in Toronto.

Combined, these guys have more than four decades of solid experience.

At 10/05/2005 04:57:00 AM, Blogger Josh said...

You have an interesting blog here. Some of the things people put are kind of strange...

Anyway, I like your blog and will proably be back.

Take care.

P.S. Another cool site I like is a affiliate marketing program web site that is about information marketing and a little other stuff.


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