First Person Public Relations and the Interview

Interviews engage us in several forms: looking for new jobs through networking and interviewing; tuning into media interviews with experts or celebrities; or conversing with family and friends…learning more about the people we think we know.

We are continually involved in the interview process – formal interviews or informal conversations – whether we are interviewers or interviewees. Some are private, one-on-one experiences, and some are out there for all to observe…reflecting our first person PR.

As part of media relations, PR pros pursue interviews between their clients or bosses and journalists from diverse media. More and more regular folk are also developing their own PR through a variety of citizen journalism activities and connections. Interviews are one of the ways they increase awareness of their products, services and interests.

If a journalist contacts you as a result of your media outreach, are you ready for prime time?

Research and Background Information

Before making a pitch on behalf of your boss or yourself, research the media. Look for reporters, columnists or anchors in magazines, newspapers, online sites, radio or TV shows that cover your “beat” or subject. Get ready to explain why their audiences would welcome your expertise and perspective. Will it address a national issue or trend, does it provide a local news hook, is it something readers should know about but do not, or is it of ongoing interest to that specific audience?

Then prepare background information on your organization and the subject you’re pitching. This could include a Backgrounder, FAQ, Bio of Expert, relevant video/audio resources and links, infographics, or photography. The media contact will decide what is needed for the interview and feature.

Request for Interview – Yes or No?

What if a reporter calls you before you have had the time to research, prepare background information and initiate a conversation? Thrilled as you might be with the recognition and invitation, you had better ask some questions before you agree. “Thank you so much for calling, but I want to make sure that I’m a good source for you.”  Then clarify why the journalist contacted you and what information is needed.

If you decide that you’re not the most qualified person for this interview, try to refer the reporter to someone else who is more appropriate. You can even follow up with a very brief email clarifying your background/expertise for future reference and other subjects.

Ready for the Interview

Numerous resources offer tips on successfully handling media interviews. For example:

In the book, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, author Dennis L. Wilcox offers dozens of insights and tips on handling media interviews and working with journalists. Wilcox also explains how to find and make news, write for every medium, distribute news to the media, use direct mail and advertising, and how to plan strategic campaigns.

If a journalist contacts you as a result of your media outreach, you will be ready for a prime time interview! Just don’t say “no comment.”

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