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Media interviews are a great way to position you as the expert to your customer base or garner attention in your industry. Whether a quick chat by phone, a lengthy sit-down or an online video interview, these media opportunities can help you achieve your business goals.
You might be a natural at making a good elevator pitch for your business that builds software or other products that help the home service industry. And it might be second nature for you to talk with customers or clients when on a plumbing or HVAC service call.
However, none of that means talking to the media will come naturally for you. There’s a certain amount of pressure being in front of a camera or sitting through an interview, which can feel like an interrogation.
The good news is that with some preparation your moment in the spotlight can be fruitful and as painless as possible.
Here are five easy tips to keep in mind when planning for an interview:
Be prepared: Before the phone rings or you show up for the interview, you must be prepared.
Researching the media outlet and knowing the interview topic is a necessity. You need to understand what the reporter might ask and have answers ready. Whether the interview is for a feature on your business as a whole or a new development, you’ll want to be prepared for whatever questions come your way.
Being organized for the interview will give you confidence and allow for a more natural exchange between you and the reporter. Plus, silence never makes a good sound bite.
Know your audience: How you respond to questions should be based on the outlet that’s interviewing you.
When speaking to a trade publication, there’s room to discuss processes and jargon that would be understood by anyone in the industry.
However, it’s best to use layman’s terms when speaking to the general media. A segment on an afternoon segment on your local TV station isn’t a good time to explain how specific pieces of equipment or processes are revolutionizing the industry.
Consider the type of interview it is and who the audience is, and then develop a key message and stick to it.
For example, take a look at this recent interview with Ted Puzio, owner of Southern Trust Home Services in Roanoke, Virginia (bit.ly/2zibOJ0). Ted is personable and uses analogies to explain concepts to the viewers. He’s conversational and casual in the information he is relaying. This not only created a rapport with the reporter, but with the viewers as well.
Know your facts: If you’re releasing a new product, make sure you know that product inside and out. If you’re doing a “how to” segment, be prepared. An interview isn’t a recital of memorized information, but a showcase of your skills and expertise in your field.
Facts and figures are a great way to give information to reporters and their audiences. Statistics lend credibility to what you’re saying, but make sure you attribute them to a source.
Before you say anything, however, make sure it’s accurate. An interview is forever, and you don’t want to be quoted giving misinformation.
Remember the three Cs: Calm. Cool. Collected. Taking your time and keeping your cool are keys to a successful interview.
Don’t rush through your answers. You might be a bundle of nerves on the inside, but no one else needs to know that. This is one of those times your pre-interview preparation comes in handy. Being able to anticipate the reporter’s questions and having an answer ready not only creates a more casual exchange, but solidifies your role as an expert in your field.
Be mindful of the time frame you’re dealing with, but don’t be afraid to give detailed yet concise answers to the reporter’s questions. And if you are ever in an interview that gets heated, remember to keep your cool. If you feel your internal thermometer nearing nuclear, just breathe and stay quiet.
While silence might not be a great sound bite, expletives or angry words are even worse. Make sure that anything you say is something you want to say. (Nothing is ever off the record.)
Be present: We live in a fast-paced world, so it’s natural to multitask at any and all points throughout the day. While you’re reading this, you might be running through a to-do list in the back of your mind. But when you’re doing an interview, this is one of the worst things you can do.
So, minimize the distractions. Unless you’re doing an interview on your phone, turn it off. Checking your phone is not only rude to the reporter, but it can also prove as a distraction to you when trying to answer questions. You need to make it clear you want to be there. Make eye contact, smile and do your best to have casual body language.
Just tell your story
Honestly, there’s no set-in-stone way to conduct an interview. Each company is different, and each company has its own values or objectives they hope to achieve.
For example, take a look at this story (bit.ly/2ztbHKCa) a local newspaper did with Mike Nicholson, owner of Nicholson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Holliston, Massachusetts. An act of compassion gave him a chance to illustrate his commitment to helping customers – especially those that involve rescuing a lost cat.
Knowing how to have a successful interview is only half of the battle, though.
It’s not always easy to land an interview. It can take a lot of back and forth, especially when you’re trying to find the same opening in two schedules, yours and the reporter’s.
While it might seem difficult at times, try not to get frustrated. Generally, an interview is a great thing for your company’s brand and customer base, so keep working at it.
But, sometimes, you might wonder if you should turn down an interview, too. You may have heard the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” This is completely untrue. While the general rule of thumb is an interview with a journalist is helpful for your company’s reputation, this isn’t always the case.
It’s important for home services companies to develop a key message and stick to it.
Settle on the fundamental basics of what you want the public to know. If an interview will keep you from delivering that message, turn it down.
For example, an interview with a local media outlet would be good for business while an interview with a political site could inadvertently alienate part of your target audience.
You also need to consider the situation you or your company might be in before saying “yes” to any interviews.
For example if you’re about to go through a round of layoffs or something extreme has happened onsite, such as a serious injury or even work-related death, an interview could prove detrimental. Employees and their families deserve to hear this news from you, not a media outlet.
In the face of legal trouble or a scandal, you will probably want to issue a statement but avoid actual interviews.
Anytime you do decide to turn down an interview, be professional and polite. You don’t want to burn bridges. I will always recommend you hire a professional communications agency to help with any crisis situation.
The most important thing for you to realize is that you don’t have to do any of this alone. Communications professionals are out there and are eager to help you land interviews and grow your business. Keeping these tips and thoughts in mind will help you achieve your goals and have a successful interview.