How to Respond to Media Requests

Running a small business means you’ll be seen as an expert in your field. After all, you’ve started and grown a business into something real. It’s a big achievement! This standing will sometimes mean the media will want to hear your informed take on an issue. Are you ready to respond?

As P.T. Barnum once said, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” However, we want to make sure you leverage this invaluable free publicity to deliver your key messaging to the largest possible audience. For many, a lack of preparation can leave them feeling anxious speaking to the media. A little preparation means this won’t be an issue. Here are some interview tips to ensure you get the most out of your media exposure:

There’s No Need to Rush

Unless the media wants you to provide a simple answer, such as describing the services you offer, the wise move is to think carefully over your response. The key to a successful interview is knowing your key points and messages. If you choose to respond, make sure you understand the story, the angle and who else will be sharing their opinions in the story.

Do Your Research

Be prepared with facts, figures and dates to back up your key points. Providing these details will increase the likelihood of you being quoted. Also, when gathering facts, think in terms of what the public might want to know – anticipating the reporter/reader questions and interests will help you be prepared. It is common that reporters will want to know your revenue (particularly if it is a business story), something you might not feel comfortable answering. If you don’t want to disclose actual revenue, have a different metric to quantify size or growth (i.e. number of employees gained, growth as it relates to clients/contracts, area serviced, etc.)

Context is Key

Make your key messages clear by clearly flagging the issue.  You simply make your point, and then explain it.  You can draw more attention to your flag by using phrases like “the most important issue is”, or “What we want to make clear is”. This is especially important with broadcast interviews. When preparing your key messages, look at each sentence individually. Can it be taken out of context? If it can, adjust.

Stay on Topic

There’s no need to volunteer additional information. This goes back to planning what your goals are for the interview. You should know what you’d like to communicate from the start and stick to that information as much as possible. Brevity is equally important. The shorter and more succinct an answer, the more likely it will be used for sound bites and quotes. Solid statements are more likely to be used in a story.

Know Your Audience

While you’re an expert in your realm, the audience likely isn’t. Avoid jargon and acronyms. Speak in terms familiar to the audience. Don’t use questionable humor (self-effacing humor is best), profanity, or any kind of derogatory language.

Become Familiar with Bridging and Blocking

Never try to make up an answer on the spot. Instead, use Bridging and Blocking techniques to bring the interview back to your key messages.

  • Bridging is when you connect a question back to the point that you’re trying to make. “Yes, but we’re here to talk about…” “What I think you’re really asking is…”
  • Blocking is when you don’t want to answer the question and is usually used with bridging i.e. “It’s against our policy to answer that, but what I can tell you is that…” Or “That’s not the issue we’re seeing, what we’re seeing is…”

It’s OK to Say No

And finally, if you don’t know the answer, just say so. There’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t know, that there hasn’t been a decision yet or that you aren’t sure of the answer and will report back.