As traditional journalism continues to evolve and more people turn to the internet as their primary source for news, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate credible sources from everyone else. The web has produced an overwhelming amount of “news” outlets, with blogs, websites, and social media channels playing bigger roles in reporting every day. The news cycle has been replaced by the constant flow of real-time information and the desire to report something first has replaced the desire to be fair and accurate.
This shift has also produced a change in reporting standards. We’ve seen several examples of questionable reporting over the years and many of these instances have been down-right laughable. A recent mainstream example came in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April. Citing unnamed sources, a reputable CNN anchor reported that a “dark skinned male” had been taken into custody two days before the actual suspects were identified and captured. The information was subsequently reported by several other news outlets and later turned out to be completely untrue. The incident left the anchor and CNN mired in an ugly public relations crisis, with even President Obama taking a shot at the network in its aftermath.
Closer to home – and far less impactful – a client of ours was in the news recently and a well-intentioned reporter sent them an email with a laundry list of questions. The reporter expected them to take the time to write out detailed answers to each question… whatever happened to requesting an interview? Wouldn’t it be much easier to schedule a time to speak over the phone and get the answers to your questions that way? Isn’t that reporting 101? In addition to showing a serious lack of appreciation for the client’s time, it was also incredibly obvious that the reporter hadn’t done his homework. A simple Google search would have produced answers to half of his questions and he would have been that much more prepared before reaching out to the client. Needless to say, that wasn’t an opportunity we were interested in pursuing and the reporter didn’t get his story.
Here’s another scenario: What happens when a reporter uses the information that was provided, writes a fair story, and it still doesn’t turn out the way you wanted? What do you do when you realize you could have communicated something in a better way and a poor quote is the only one that makes it into the story?
This is where media training and controlling the message become a huge resource.
When it comes to media training, our goal is to make sure clients are prepared for each media interview they participate in, whether its conducted in-person, over the phone, or on camera, and whether the story is for print, online, television, or radio. Here are some simple media training tips to follow to ensure a successful media interview:
1.) Spend time prior to an interview researching background information on the reporter, the beat they typically cover, and the types of questions they will likely ask. Our clients feel more comfortable before an interview when they know a little bit about the person who is going to interview them.
2.) Establish clear goals for an interview and make sure you have a firm grasp on the message you want to convey. With goals outlined beforehand, we’ve found that our clients are able to stay on topic and articulate their message in clear and concise way. Having a plan of attack goes a long way.
3.) After an interview is over, review how it went and provide the reporter with any additional information they might need for the story. If the reporter has any follow-up questions, make sure to answer them. Ensuring the reporter has everything they need will lead to a more complete story and prevent them from having to do additional research.
The KCD PR team has had great results with this approach and our clients love the fact that we aren’t sending them into an interview blind. We believe that media success is achieved by building personal relationships with the reporters who are covering your company and by being adequately prepared before an interview.