Tag Archives: interviews

PRs – time to name and acclaim

You know what? Sometimes PRs are absolutely brilliant.

Sometimes you’re writing a story and it’s not going so well. You’re missing a case study that’ll bring it all to life, or you need an expert to give you some incisive comments on exactly what is happening, or it’s lacking someĀ  killer stats. Sometimes it goes like that, and you start wondering what you’re going to do. You worry that the whole thing isn’t going to hang together and that you’re going to let your editor down. And then you get an email from a PR who does everything he or she is meant to, and suddenly it’s all right. The world is a happy place again. It’s a beautiful thing.

Ok, maybe I’m getting a tad carried away here. But the point is that sometimes it does happen, and it rarely gets noted. In amongst all the bitter sniping and public wrangling between the hacks and the flacks, there doesn’t seem to be a space for we journos to point out these times when a PR does a really great job, helps a us write a better story, and no doubt gets some good coverage for his or her client.

So, I thought I’d start a new series on my blog to do just this. Somewhere I can name and acclaim a PR who I think has done something well. Now, being this positive goes against every fibre of my being, influenced as it was by a firmly British upbringing which taught me to always favour grumbling and criticism over celebration and praise. But bear with me. I’ll give it a go, and let’s see how it pans out….

A couple of weeks ago Paul Maher of Positive Marketing read my e-newsletter, saw that I was writing an article that one of his clients could comment on, and so dropped me a brief email explaining who his client is and precisely why they’d be great for the piece. I agreed to an interview and so he set it up promptly, sending out details for the conference call in good time, and even calling just before the interview to check I was still on for it. His client and I had a good conversation. He answered all my questions openly and made interesting points supported by facts, figures and real-life examples. Once or twice Paul gently nudged his client in the direction of points he should be making. It was a great interview. Then, later that day, Paul emailed me a pic of his client and details of a LinkedIn group we’d discussed in the call. It was exactly the follow-up I needed. Throughout the whole thing he was friendly, efficient, down-to-earth, and clearly understood exactly what I was writing about.

Result? I’ve got some great copy for my article and am very happy. He should also get some good coverage for his client.

Now, why can’t it always be like that?

(I should add for all you cynics out there that I have absolutely no commercial relationship with Paul or his company. I’ve never even met the bloke, and what’s more he has no idea that I’m writing this!)

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 5

Are they following up after an interview with an email to the journalist?

If they are then well done them – they’re doing better than almost anyone I’ve ever interviewed. The handful or so who have done this over the years are the ones who I’ve gone on to form good, long-term relationships with. I’ve had a good source of information and opinion, and they’ve got a lot of good coverage.

So, why does it happen so infrequently? I’m just suggesting something like: “Good talking to you just now. Hope you found what I had to say interesting (by the way, I’d welcome any feedback you have on how I came across..) – I look forward to seeing the finished article and to working with you on similar pieces in the future.”

How long would it take to fire that over to a journalist after an interview? What impact could it have on the coverage they got in that piece and the future relationship they built?

The thing is that it just doesn’t occur to most spokespeople, and usually that’s because they’ve not had media training, or the media training they have had hasn’t covered this. Why don’t you help them get more out of the interviews they do – why don’t you book them in for some media training?

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 4

Do they signpost key messages?

This is something that very, very few people do successfully. Even fairly accomplished spokespeople – the people who are clear on their marketing messages, who cleverly find a way of weaving those into answers that are genuinely useful to the journalist, and who approach media interviews calmly and capably – even they very often find that their key messages don’t make it through into the finished article.

It can be incredibly frustrating for them.

Signposting is a great way of making sure the interviewer understands your key messages, notes them down, and then uses them in his or her copy. It’s a difficult technique to master – do it too obviously and it can be counter-productive – but I’ve worked with spokespeople practising it in roleplays, and helping them to start using it to very good effect.

Listen in to the next media interview your spokespeople do – are they signposting their key messages as well as they could be?

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 3

Do they approach interviews confidently? Do they even look forward to them?

Too many people dread media interviews. They think they’re going to get caught out by a Paxman-style shark of a journalist, and end up saying something that will jeopardise their careers.Who wouldn’t be worried about something like that?!

Of course with proper training they’ll be clear about the messages they want to convey, they’ll know how to link those into answers they give journalists, they’ll know how to convey those messages clearly, succintly and directly, they’ll know how to deal with awkward questions. And most of all they’ll look forward to media interviews as an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of their specialist subject, to promote their business, and to have an in-depth discussion about their industry with someone who’s genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Who wouldn’t look forward to something like that?

So, if you have to search high and low for someone to speak to the media, if you have to persuade your spokespeople to make time for these interviews, if you get the feeling they dread the experience, why not do them – and yourself – a favour and book them in for half a day’s media training?

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 2

Are your media spokespeople answering questions directly, clearly and succintly?

They probably say they are. They probably even think they are. But very, very few people I interview do this well.

Some never quite address the question head on, even when it’s giving them a great chance to sell their company, product or services.

Some lose their message in a welter of empty jargon, management-speak, and general verbiage.

Others just talk. Sometimes even before I’ve asked a question they’ll launch into a speech and on they’ll go. They’ll talk and talk and talk and talk, ignoring my desperate attempts to enter the conversation, just a torrent of words flying out until I’ve lost the will to live, let alone write down whatever it is they’re waffling on about.

The thing is most people aren’t even aware that they’re falling into any of these traps. They think they’re doing a great job. So, help them out – listen in on the next interview they do, and see for yourself whether they are genuinely answering the questions directly, clearly and succintly.

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How to convince someone they need media training?

I’ve begun the year with a flurry of bookings for media training – I have eight sessions to run over January and February. This is great, because I love doing media training.

I enjoy putting forward my ideas on how to perform well in media interviews, and the roleplays are always fun, but what I think I enjoy the most about media training is spending four hours shifting the perceptions of Chief Executives, MDs and other senior people about how to deal with journalists, what they can get out of the media, and even about the need for training in the first place.

Almost without exception senior people begin these sessions with arms folded, eyebrows raised, and a high degree of scepticism in their voices. They’ve got plenty of other important work to be doing. They don’t need to spend half a day listening to a journalist tell them how to do an interview. They know what they’re talking about and if interviews go badly it’s because the journalist is either incompetent or malicious.

Four hours later they’re fully engaged, doing a roleplay and putting into practice what they’ve learnt into the session. Almost without exception they conclude the session by telling me they really didn’t want to do this training, but it’s been remarkably worthwhile and they want the rest of their senior team to do it.

Now, who wouldn’t enjoy that sort of feedback?!

I’m sure this is a scenario many of you will identify with. If you work in PR you’re probably very used to dealing with senior executives who at first don’t understand the media and are very sceptical and suspicious. You’ve probably also had that joyous moment when they do get it for the first time. But it probably doesn’t happen with everyone — many just won’t listen to your strategic advice, invest in media relations resource, or agree to any skills training.

So, I’m going to give you a tool to help break down those tricky mediaphobes. For each of the next five days, beginning tomorrow, I’m going to post something to look out for in how they approach media interviews.

If you’ve got a senior executive who you suspect could get better coverage from the interview opportunities you provide for him or her, check to see if they’re doing each of these things.

If they’re not doing all of them then they’re not performing as well as they could be and they would benefit from media training. You will also have concrete evidence to put to them to persuade them that this is something they need. You can explain to them that media training will improve how they do X and here was an example of where they would have had a better outcome from an interview if they’d done X.

I hope this is helpful. To get these tips delivered to your e-mail inbox over the next five days you can subscribe to this blog very easily by popping your e-mail address where prompted in the column to the right.

Let me know how you get on….

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