By Summer Stephenson
Whether you’re preparing yourself for an interview or prepping a C-level or board member to go in front of a camera, association communication professionals need to know what it takes to be a good media resource.
Associations and their spokespeople who are sought out by reporters and producers for their expertise and insight on breaking news and feature stories will not only carry out their role as a thought leader, they will also thereby increase exposure and sales for their company.
In the current climate of economic uncertainty, some executives ignore the value of media coverage to turn all their attention to business operations.
Don’t hide under your desk or send the call to voicemail when a reporter “knocks” on your door. Each time you decline a media inquiry or are overlooked by the media, you deliver an advantage to your competitors that you can never win back.
Becoming a media-recognized industry expert has never been more important — or more opportune — and it is a simple, cost-effective way to increase revenue and exposure for your company and lay the groundwork for long-term success.
Here are some foolproof tactics to becoming the go-to person for trade, national, and local press. Think five:
Five seconds: Give a sound byte that is no longer than 5 actual seconds — that is pretty long if you count it out. Anything longer will almost surely be edited or deleted. For reference, keep a clock on your desk with a second hand.
Five words: Keep your business title at five words or less. Long titles are a turn-off for people looking for quick reads, journalists trying to craft a concise narrative, and really, just about everyone. Long titles might be a nice ego boost, but they are also great at getting people to stop paying attention both in written copy and video (many executives watch TV during the day with the sound off). Several companies now use longer, descriptive titles internally (John Smith, senior vice president, domestic sales and marketing) and brief, reader-friendly titles for media spokespeople (John Smith, VP marketing).
Five points: Before your interview, develop no more than five concise message points. If you have more, you will be rushed and scattered, giving the impression that you are unsure of your message and leaving the reporter without the well-defined content needed to build a strong story.
Five sentences: Increasingly, reporters on deadline are emailing questions to their proven experts to provide their stories with professional insight. Answer the questions directly, using no more than five sentences. This tactic is good practice for remarks in live interviews, as well. If you know a topic is going to come up, practice your answer. More than five sentences risks overcomplicating the topic. Remember, the journalist may need to distill your answer down to a single sentence, so do whatever you can to make it a good one.
Five counts: Immediately before a print or broadcast interview, breathe to the count of five and exhale to the count of five, five times. After content, breathing is the most important preparation for any interview. If you are not composed, alert, and focused, the interviewer will sense your tension, lack of attention, or confidence; this can result in the reporter losing interest, or worse, digging in places that should not be dug in.
There are very few, associations that can afford to pass up the exposure provided by good media relationships, and fewer still that can sustain themselves if they forego interviews and allow someone else to take the mantle of industry expert.
If you’re not already a source sought by reporters and producers, now is the time to become one. Just remember to think five.
Summer Stephenson is the managing director of PayPerClip public relations.