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For many home service contractors, giving an interview to the media may not be something they thought they’d ever do when they were first learning their trade. However, now that you have your own company and want to see it succeed, giving media interviews is one of the most productive ways to help grow your business. They should be viewed as an opportunity to tell your company’s story.
It’s rare that a journalist picks an HVAC expert or plumbing professional at random to interview when they need an industry insider to offer tips or advice. If you’ve gotten a request for an interview, chances are you have developed a public relations strategy that has included positioning yourself as an expert through a series of press releases, social media posts and blogs.
You’ve ensured reporters have seen that you are an expert on certain topics, and they have an article they’re working on that needs your input.
So, now that you have been tapped to provide your opinion through an interview with a print journalist or on-camera for a TV spot, are you prepared to make your media debut?
Prepping For Print
Whether you’ve been asked to comment on an industrywide change by a national trade magazine or asked by your local newspaper to advise on preparing water pipe for a cold snap, being interviewed may be nerve-wracking if you’ve never done it before.
Here are some tips for interviewing with a print reporter:
• Be authentic. If you come across as fake or “schmoozy,” a reporter will take note and begin to doubt your sincerity about the subject matter. Be yourself.
• Keep everything on the record. Plan out what you expect to say so there are no surprises. While you are having a conversation with the reporter, keep in mind this is an interview and not a chat with a friend. Don’t say anything you don’t want to be published.
• Know your topic. Even though you’ve been in the home service industry for years, do a quick online search to make sure you’re up to speed on the latest developments surrounding the topic you will be addressing.
• Tell your story. Your interview may center on a topic in the news, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make sure your company name is mentioned. You don’t have to come across like a pushy used-car salesman, but you can say things such as, “Based on our 50 years in business, the experienced technicians at XYZ Co. would advise that homeowners … .” This allows you to tell some of your company story while staying on track.
• Don’t feel you need to answer every question. If you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to, admit it. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you don’t know, but you will be happy to get back to them with an answer. Making up an answer that turns out to be false will only make the reporter skeptical of you in the future.
In many cases, home service business owners are asked by an area TV news station to comment on-camera about a newsworthy event, such as a change in local laws surrounding natural gas lines or bad weather events that can damage homes.
If you’re the lucky contractor who has been asked to comment, there are a few things you should know about doing an on-camera interview:
• Dress professionally. Don’t show up in dirty coveralls. Wear a clean uniform or polo shirt with your company’s logo prominently featured. Ensure your hair is in place and you aren’t wearing sunglasses, a hat or any other item of clothing that could be distracting.
• Speak in sound bites. Use full sentences when making your point. Simply answering with a “yes” or a “no” to a question makes bad TV. Be sure also to tell your story and use your company name.
• Sit or stand correctly. If you do the interview while standing, don’t stuff your hands in your pockets and sway back and forth. If you sit down with the reporter, make sure your posture is good. Don’t sit with your legs spread wide apart and your arms crossed. This makes you appear both rude and walled off.
• Don’t chew gum. Have you ever watched an interview where the subject is chewing gum? It’s not only distracting; it can be off-putting to watch people talk with something in their mouths.
• Practice. If you’ve never given a professional on-camera interview, practice doing so with a trusted friend or colleague. Provide them with some questions to ask you, set up a camera and conduct a mock interview. Afterward, sit down and review the footage to see if you answered clearly, refrained from fidgeting and were able to make your points.
Bridge The Gap
Many times during an interview, it’s easy to get off topic or be sent down a path you don’t want to go. If the reporter has asked you a question designed to elicit a response you are not prepared to give, use bridging words to steer the conversation back to your expertise.
Bridging words such as, “In speaking with our customers here at XYZ Co., we have noticed that …” or “We haven’t experienced that, but our technicians at XYZ Co. have experiences …” can steer the conversation back to the topic. Using bridging words preserves the flow of the conversation by forming a connection between two separate ideas.
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous for your first few media interviews. It’s a new experience, and you want to make a good impression.
Keeping a lid on your emotions can best be achieved by remembering you are the expert. The reason the reporter has called upon you for your opinion or advice is because you know the industry and you have been giving tips to homeowners for years.
You know your business better than the reporter and many in the readership or audience.
So, if you prepare and practice, your confidence as an industry leader should shine through the interview.