This blog about how to get interviewed by the media was originally one of a series of monthly guest blogs written by our director, Ellen Gunning, for Microsoft’s Irish SME platform. It has been updated and refreshed by Connor Coleman (Feb. 2020).
Not everything that your business does is exciting or newsworthy – but every so often something happens that you think would be of interest to people. So, how do you get the media to interview you about it?
In this blog, I want to help you identify your own stories, find out how to create interview opportunities from them, and learn how to handle them.
Let’s create a fairly normal (i.e. not too wildly exciting) story for a business. We will assume that it manufactures equipment for potholing or caving, and that it is in existence three years. The plant has been extended and the business is planning a gala opening function. How do you create media interest and interviews out of that? Journalists are not going to bite your hand off to attend the opening, so, you need to be creative.
You should be trying to create as many interviews as possible, across the widest range of media.
If you think about print media like the Sunday Independent, you might decide that the best idea might be to ask the editor to send a journalist potholing with you. The interview could be a combination of the journalist’s experience of going underground and your business story.
If you think radio, you might pitch to Bobby Kerr’s business programme (on Newstalk) on the basis that potholing is underground, and Bobby is a well-known sailor. You could position the interview around a sports discussion before you ever talk about the business angle!
If you were also thinking of Richard Curran’s business programme (on RTE) you would need to find a different angle. You might pitch an interview on the back of financial statistics, e.g. the company had a turnover of 40,000 in year one and 800,000 in year three.
How do you go about it?
You contact the editor, journalist or researcher and ‘pitch’ your idea. I have always found it best to get someone on the phone and (briefly) talk them through. This gives you an immediate feeling for whether or not the idea is a runner. Expect to be shot down in flames if they dislike the idea, or possibly to be fobbed off politely with a ‘send us the information and we’ll look at it’. Time is a precious thing. Push. Make sure that by the end of the call that you have established if the person is interested so that you know that you are sending follow-up information with a realistic chance of securing a Media interview, and be sure to have back-up information written and ready to go by email as soon as the call ends.
What to prepare
Now that you’ve agreed the outline of the interview, it’s your job to prepare for it. Journalists won’t give you the questions in advance. Write as many questions as you can think of – and see if you can answer them coherently and succinctly (don’t be long-winded!). Anticipate questions that might be difficult to answer – is potholing dangerous? Has someone died recently that you might be asked about? – and prepare your answer to those questions too.
Where to do the interview
If you can, you should always try to get to the studio. The very fact that you are in a strange environment will ‘remind’ you that you have X hundred-thousand people listening to you. If you are doing the Media interview by phone, be sure to allow yourself 5-10 minutes beforehand to clear your mind of everything else that you have been working on that day, and put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door so that you won’t be interrupted.
Learn to Speak and Listen
Write down three key points that you want to make during the interview – and make sure that you cover them. Watch that you don’t use the interviewers first name too often, and don’t use industry jargon. Pay attention to the questions that you are being asked. It is as important to listen carefully as it is to answer properly. Answer the question as thoroughly as you can and then stop!
Finally, you should always review your interviews afterwards and analyse what you could have done better so that you learn from the experience. If you think the interview was a disaster, it probably just ‘wasn’t great’ and if you think it was ‘absolutely brilliant’ it was probably just good!!
If you devote time to media interviews, you have a purpose in mind. Always make sure to check if you achieved what you set out to do. And always ask people where they heard of you – you’d be surprised how much business comes on the back of ‘soft’ publicity like this.
First published in its original format in 2017
Be sure to check out the previous blogs in this series