Public relations is a balancing act. Much like a tightrope walker where there is the pull of the client on one end and the journalist on the other, the art of PR is finding a way to balance the needs of one against the other. For any public relations professional just starting out, it can take time to learn how to help a journalist get a good story that still leaves an opening for your client to get across a core business message in the process. But, there are best practices to keep in mind pre, during, and post interview to help get the best story possible. Marking the first in a three-part series of posts by Aspectus PR, here we provide advice on how to prepare for a stellar interview (part II will address the interview itself, and part III will discuss how to follow-up):
Always be prepared
Having reached this point in the PR process, you’ve already put together a stellar pitch about your client’s latest news or insights and gotten the journalist interested and excited about the idea. Well done. But now the real work starts. In order to facilitate a productive conversation with the best possible chance of converting to a compelling article for the journalist and good coverage for the client a certain amount of preparation is needed ahead of the interview itself. This means prepping both journalist and client.
Preparing the journalist for the interview might include sending over a copy of a supporting press release, sharing company or product information as background, distributing biographies and confirming titles of the spokesperson(s), sending related survey or proprietary data to reinforce the story, providing access to additional sources, and having a clear conversation about potential embargo timings. The latter is to ensure the interview is being scheduled with enough time to respect the embargo and meet the journalist’s deadlines. This level of preparation will help ensure the journalist has everything needed to understand your client’s area of expertise, focus questions appropriately, and save space for the article in respect of the embargo date.
Preparing the client can be an even greater task. While media training for key spokespersons is always encouraged, it can also be helpful to speak with the interviewee a few minutes ahead of the interview to address any last minute questions or voice any concerns, re-iterate any hard stop times or let them know of any changes in process or content. It also helps to provide a written briefing document to interviewees with information on the journalist, publication, interview focus and core messages to discuss. This short document can serve as a point of reference on the call to ensure that responses to questions are always framed within the context of the publication’s target audience.