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Published on August 10th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


How to Talk to the Media Like a Pro

Written by by Rieva Lesonsky

Do you dream of getting interviewed by a reporter, radio personality or blogger? Unless you know how to handle yourself during the interview, your dream could turn into a nightmare. You see, getting the media’s attention is only half the battle for a small business owner. What really matters is how well you handle being interviewed.

As a small business journalist and blogger who’s interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, I’ve learned the painful difference between the business owner who responds in monosyllables and the ones who give great quotes, create a conversation and are just plain fun to talk to. How can you be the latter and not the former? Read on.

*Be ready. Never send out press releases or pitch reporters without being prepared to speak about the topic you’re pitching. You may not get a lot of warning—reporters are on short deadlines, so it’s possible you’ll get a call or email back within minutes of sending a pitch.

*Use your time to prepare. If your interview is a few days or weeks away, use the time to prepare even further. Ask the reporter what the article is about, so you’ll have a sense of how best to contribute. For instance, if you own a craft brewery, is the article a profile of your brewery? Then have some good stories about your startup and growth to share. Is it an overview of the craft brewing trend? Then be ready to discuss industry trends and where you think the industry is going. It’s also perfectly OK to ask the reporter for samples of the kinds of questions he or she plans to ask—this can be a smart move if you’re shy or have trouble thinking on your feet.

*Stay on track. At the opposite extreme of the “yes or no” answer is the small business owner who can’t stop talking (and usually goes completely off topic). If a reporter asks you about industry trends, don’t tell her how your grandfather’s recipe for chocolate stout inspired you to start the business, and by the way, your grandfather was a Russian immigrant who kept pot-bellied pigs in his backyard, and…. Focus on the topic at hand.

*Promote your “talking points,” but gently. Reporters expect interviewees to promote themselves a bit; it’s why people agree to be interviewed. You can subtly draw the conversation around to what you want to promote, as long as you don’t go overboard. (Watch any interview with a politician and see how they bring it back to their core message.) For instance, if the reporter asks you about trends in the craft beer industry, you could say, “IPAs have peaked and become mainstream; now sour beers are growing in popularity. That’s one reason we’re introducing our new line of sours, which is already seeing growth of 20 percent month-over-month.” See how completely you answered the question, but also promoted your new product line?

*Provide hard data. Reporters love statistics and facts, so be ready to share any data you can to back up what you say. In the example above, the craft beer entrepreneur could also have shared industry data about the growth of sour beers overall. Stats from your own experience are great, too, so if you collect data on your customers that illustrates trends, or have done a customer survey recently that gleaned valuable information, be sure to share it.

*Be helpful. Be on time for the interview, and let the reporter know you’re available for any follow-up questions afterwards. Reporters prefer working with nice people. Treat the interview like a pleasant conversation, and they’ll turn to you again and again.


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