What Every Solopreneur Needs to Know Before Doing Another Media Interview
“The media loves two kinds of people—experts, whom they misquote, and victims, who they exploit.” – Joe Palca, National Public Radio
Just for the record, I don’t actually agree with the above quote. But I know it’s how a lot of people feel when it comes to working with the media.
For the first 10 years of my career, at least half of my job always entailed media relations. In fact, for the longest time, I thought I’d spend my entire life as a PR pro.
Now that Toni and I offer business coaching and marketing consulting to small business owners and solopreneurs, I don’t do as much of it, which is a shame. Media publicity can be one of the most effective ways to tell the world about your products or services.
(Remember: people can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist.)
The thing is, I’ve found that a lot of entrepreneurs don’t have the time, interest or know-how to do the necessary prep work in advance of a media interview in order to get any real value out of it. And so what happens is usually one of two things.
Scenario 1: The phone rings. The reporter on the other end says they are working on a story about underwater basket weaving and they heard you were an expert. Can you spare a few minutes to talk with them? You say yes. You answer their questions. The article comes out. It sounds okay enough, but you never get any new clients or other business opportunities out of it so it feels like a waste of your valuable time.
Scenario 2: The phone rings. The reporter on the other end says they are working on a story about underwater basket weaving and they heard you were an expert. Can you spare a few minutes to talk with them? You say yes. You answer their questions. The article comes out. And you’re horrified because the reporter has either “gotten it all wrong” or “used the worst possible quote” they could have chosen from the interview. “Why did they have to write THAT??!!” you shriek.
(I once had a reporter at the Baltimore Sun quote me sooooooooooo precisely that he included every “um,” “ah,” and “like” that I said. Indeed, sometimes it’s better to be grateful when reporters aren’t so damn exact. )
But both of the above scenarios are a shame because with just a little know-how and some practice, you can turn every media interview into a priceless opportunity to establish yourself as an expert, raise awareness of your small business and attract more of your ideal customers.
You see, a media interview is a lot like a smorgasbord at a dinner party. If you put 20 or more options out on the buffet, your guests will pick and choose which of the items they’re going to eat. And while you may think the roast beef and the asparagus are by far the best, some people will choose to eat the turkey and the stuffing instead.
In other words, you put it all out there, so you have no control over which dishes your guests choose to eat.
Now, if on the other hand you had a dinner party and only served roast beef, asparagus and some dinner rolls, anyone who is hungry is bound to eat at least some of what’s there.
And that’s EXACTLY the type of dinner party you want to throw when dealing with a reporter. Stick to the same three or four points in your interview, and the reporter will only have those three or four points to choose from when he’s writing his article.
Makes sense, right?
So then what are the three or four points you want to stick to in the interview? Well, it all starts with understanding that every media opportunity is really a marketing opportunity to get YOUR message out to YOUR target audience – presumably your customers.
The only thing standing in the way of that is, well, the media. The reporter has a job to do. And it is not to promote your business. It is to report the news.
What I’m about to share with you is exactly what we walk our clients through when we’re teaching a media training session or helping a client prepare for an upcoming media appearance. If you use these five steps consistently, you’ll find that doing media interviews can be well worth your time.
Step 1: Know Your Message
There’s a big difference between knowing your subject (i.e. whatever it is that you’re an expert in) versus knowing your message. To figure out what your key message is, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my agenda for doing this interview? (Hint: Your agenda is NOT to “help the reporter out” although you’ll certainly do that in the process.)
- In a perfect world, what headline would I like to see on the news article when it runs?
- What quotes and/or statements would I like to see in the article?
- What would I like my ideal customer to know about what I can do for them?
- What information would persuade my ideal client to want to learn more about this topic from me?
Step 2: Turn Your Message Into News a Reporter Can Use
Once you’re clear on what it is that you want to communicate to your customers, you then need to transform your message into useable news that the reporter (and his editor) will want to print.
Here are some ways you can package your message so that it’s “newsworthy.”
- Offer short anecdotes to make your point. Share a success story of a client who has used your products and/or services. Be sure that you have their permission to do so.
- Offer statistics. Keep them short and simple and, if possible, mention the source by name.
- Give an analogy. This is particularly helpful when discussing complex subjects or ideas that most of the publication’s readers would be unfamiliar with.
- Develop a catchy sound bite (i.e. a quotable one liner).
- Share relevant personal experiences. You’ll want to keep it brief, but reporters are always looking to tell a story through peoples’ personal experiences.
Step 3: Bridge to Your Message
Bridging is a technique that helps you get from what you are asked to what you want to say. If you’ve ever watched a politician be interviewed on the news, you’ve probably seen this technique in action. No matter what a politician is asked, he or she always gets immediately back to the point they want to make.
To be done effectively, bridging must appear seamless. Here’s how:
- Listen carefully to the question being asked.
- Think about what YOUR message is.
- Find a word or phrase in the question that you can use as a pivot point on which to build a bridge of words to your message.
- Respond by answering or at least touching on the question; then move on to say what you want to say—i.e. your message.
Here’s an example:
Your Desired Message: Acme Coaching’s expertise is in helping women business owners move through hidden issues that have been secretly sabotaging their success.
Reporter’s Question: How much time do you spend working with your clients on things like business strategy versus dealing with their personal baggage?
Pivot Word(s): personal baggage
Answer: “It varies depending on the client and what goals we co-create together. But I’m glad you brought up personal baggage because often times it’s hidden issues like lack of confidence or fear of success that are secretly sabotaging a woman’s success. That’s exactly the type of thing Acme Coaching has a long track record of helping our clients to overcome in order to achieve much more success in their business. Let me give you an example from my client Sara…”
Step 4: Flag Your Message
Even in a short 15-minute interview (which is what I recommend), there’s the chance that the reporter will cover a lot of different information with you. But as talked about in the smorgasbord analogy above, you don’t want the reporter to cover points A, B and C in the article, if you’re key messages are X, Y and Z.
During the interview, you should highlight the key points you want the reporter to understand and what you want to see in print. This technique is called “flagging.” Here are some examples:
- “The most important thing to know about this is…”
- “What’s most interesting is…”
- “What your readers may find helpful to know is…”
- “The real news here is…”
- “What I’m most excited about is…”
- “Above all else…”
- “If your readers only remember one thing, it would be to…”
Playing on the example I gave in Step 3, you could flag your key message like this:
“It varies depending on the client and what goals we co-create together. But I’m glad you brought up personal baggage because the most important thing to know about this is that often times it’s hidden issues like lack of confidence or fear of success that are secretly sabotaging a woman’s success. That’s exactly the type of thing Acme Coaching has a long track record of helping our clients to overcome in order to achieve much more success in their business. Let me give you an example from my client Sara…”
Step 5: Repeat Your Message
Like all of us, reporters tend to use information that they’ve heard often, in a variety of ways. Develop various ways that you can phrase your key message, and repeat it often.
Variation 1: Acme Coaching’s expertise is in helping women business owners move through hidden issues that have been secretly sabotaging their success.
Variation 2: The biggest result Acme Coaching gets for its clients is helping them move through hidden issues that have been secretly sabotaging their success.
Variation 3: Once women address any underlying or hidden issues that are sabotaging their success, they see an immediate difference in their level of success, and that’s exactly what Acme Coaching specializes in.
Important Note: If this information was helpful for you, don’t miss this week’s issue of Brilliance! where we’re going to share a list of ways that you can “recycle” your media coverage to create even more opportunities that will help you grow your business. You can register for your complimentary subscription here.
If you liked today’s article, you’re welcome to use it in your own ezine or blog as long as you include the following blurb:
Known as The Corporate Agent, Angelique Rewers, ABC, APR, teaches micro business owners and solopreneurs around the world how to grow their small business by working with Big Business. Get her FREE CD and articles at www.TheCorporateAgent.com.