You have a great new product, opening or local event. You’ve put out your media release, followed up with the appropriate phone calls and — fabulous! — the television media want to come and cover the story.
Here are top tips to consider, before you send out the media release, to be at the ready when the media come marching through your doors, cameras, recorders and notepads in hand. Because reporters often have a tight deadline, knowing what to do ahead of time will keep you from scrambling at the last minute to prepare the materials you need.
Likewise, a small amount of preparation will help direct the media to the most important, salient parts of your story. As television news segments usually are filed at somewhere around two minutes, providing and steering the focus of the graphical and informational part of your story is important to ensuring it is reported the way you want.
1. Stage your setting. Stand at the spot you want the reporter to do the filming. What do you see? Is there a big, blaring sign on the wall? A bunch of dying flowers? A distracting object on the back table?
If you’re going to film in one spot, it’s not too corny to use the old trick of putting your fingers up in a square to frame the scene and see what the camera, and your viewing audience, will see. Then, make adjustments in angle or the “props” to move out unsightly objects.
As well, think about what you want in the frame. If the situation allows it, include your branding, whether it’s a banner or free-standing sign for the background.
Next, stand still for a moment. What do you hear? Is there a loud noise in the background, an elevator opening, ringing and shutting; or a grandfather clock that goes off at the top of the hour (don’t laugh, I was in that situation!)? If so, take care of noise disturbances in advance or choose another, more quiet spot.
2. List your informational points. Have a printed set of talking and informational points. Who’s getting interviewed? What are the most important points? What are the facts that a reporter needs to know? It’s good to put together a brief list of the most important talking points and the names and titles of the person or people being interviewed, and hand it to the reporter before he or she leaves.
Yes, sure, the reporter will ask questions that will most likely include the spelling of first and last names of interviewees, but you can help the reporter, and your story, by providing a handout to get the details correct to someone who is most likely in a rush. As well, it provides the opportunity, if something you really think should be discussed hasn’t, to point to the physical handout and cover that point.
3. Prep your interviewees. Now that you have your talking points, use them to walk the interviewee through some of the expected or possible questions. Even experienced interviewees can use the guidance, and very much so in the case of the less experienced — some focus and training on how to talk to the media.
In one of the more recent media stories I coordinated for a client, I had an extremely eloquent and enthusiastic interview subject. So much so that she was inclined toward tangents on the topic she was set to discuss. I didn’t want to shut her down, but I did want to gently nudge her to the focus of the story so that, in the time the TV media were on site, she could keep her comments relevant and pertinent.
4. Stand next to the reporter. You know what happens if you stand too many steps to the side of the reporter? Your interviewee looks at you and the reporter and back again during the interview, and you get some shifty-eyed looking interview subjects. Okay, that sounds funny, but it’s true. If you’re right behind the reporter, or directly to one side of, the subject looks in one direction, and doesn’t get caught looking like he’s nervous or, worse, lying.
5. Chime in when necessary. Above all, remember, you’re in charge of this media tour. It’s not disrespectful or untoward if, at the end of the interview, you know there is an important question that has yet to be asked, and you chime in and ask it while the cameras are still rolling. All the content is edited and spliced anyway, so your and the reporter’s voices will never be heard. Your role in coordinating the media event is to be helpful, and in any way you can, respectfully, you should do so.