As a local business owner, you probably don’t get a lot of requests to talk to the media. However, there may come a time when a reporter calls.
So, with a tip of the hat to the dynamite PR professionals at Ubiquity PR, here are the 10 commandments of a media appearance:
Print ’em out. Tack ’em on your wall. Refer to them if the media ever comes calling.
- If you’re called unexpectedly, ask if you can call them back. Use the time to think through what the reporter is likely to ask and how you’d like to respond. It’s helpful to have your brand definition document handy for review.
- Take a breath to think before answering each question. It’s not a race to get through the interview. Let the question sink in and think about how you’d like to answer before doing so. If you’d rather not answer the question, don’t.
- Answer with a clear statement followed by supporting points. Remember high school English class? Thesis statement. Supporting bullets. Yeah, that’s how you want to frame your answers when talking to the media too.
- Don’t use the phrase “off the record.” Nothing is off the record. Despite what you’ve seen on television, there’s no such thing as going off the record. If you don’t want to see something in print, don’t say it. Period.
- Discussing something “as background” is still on the record! When a reporter asks to discuss something as background, they’re usually looking to educate themselves on a trend or topic. They don’t intend to quote you, but nothing is stopping them from doing so if you put your foot in your mouth.
- Don’t speak poorly of competitors, trends, etc. There’s rarely a good reason to disparage anyone else, especially in print. The only party who wins a fight in the media is the media.
- Ask the reporter to rephrase a question you don’t understand. Reporters ask questions for a living, but they’re still human. Sometimes their questions don’t make sense. Just ask ‘em to ask it again.
- Don’t ask to see the article in advance. A reporter might follow up with you to clarify certain facts, but it’s unlikely they’ll send you the full article. And you shouldn’t ask for it either. You have a right to see it once it’s been published and no sooner.
- Review the final article for factual errors, but don’t nitpick. If you find a legitimate error, let the reporter know. Otherwise, find peace with what’s been written. You want to be a resource to the media, not a PITA.
- Share the article with your contacts! Few pieces of content are as powerful as a positive media win. Post it to social media, distribute it to your email list, and send it to mom to hang on the fridge.
In my home state of Arizona, there have been two major stories in the last year that had reporters seeking quotes from business owners. One, the Super Bowl, was a joyous occasion. The other, SB 1062, was a bit stickier.
By adhering to these commandments, you’ll be at the top of your game for any media appearance, whether the topic is a cause for celebration or a magnet for controversy.