In his recent article in PR Tactics, communication expert Gerard Braud offers strategies for effectively handling media interviews – allowing for the opportunity for your spokesperson to have the greatest possible influence over the direction of the interview.
Braud says he frequently hears from those with whom he does media training that during interviews they are often wondering, “What will be the next question the reporter asks me?” Often times, reporters are wondering the same thing, especially if the spokesperson is not well-trained. Reporters are looking for usable information and quotes – and if they’re not getting them, they will change the direction of the interview to craft the questions they believe will enable them to get the information they need.
One of the most important things PR contacts can do is work with spokespeople to make sure they are prepared. Do mock interviews, give them fully-formed quotes they can practice, and provide them with more than just a standard, bulleted list of talking points cover.
Another great strategy, according to Braud, is for a spokesperson to master the art of the cliffhanger. “A cliffhanger, when executed correctly, leaves the reporter wanting to know more and compels the reporter to ask a logical, follow-up question.”
Some sample cliffhangers are:
- “I think people would be shocked if they knew what the potential danger is…”
- “I think many people would be surprised to know the top two ways to reduce their electric bill…”
Braud cautions that the ability to utilize cliffhangers effectively does require a higher level of media training. However, when used effectively they will leave the reporter eager to follow up on the same topic – “And what are those top two ways to reduce their electric bill?”
If the reporter happens to not bite, and moves onto another question, your spokesperson must be prepared to interject the answer to the cliffhanger, and move on and effectively answer the reporter’s next question.
“The finesse is to know your answer and know when to stop talking. You must know how to create the cliffhanger and know the answer to the follow-up question that you’ve compelled the reporter to ask,” Braud says. “When you do this correctly, you are controlling the answers and the questions.”
Before any of the radio media tours we facilitate, we encourage spokespeople to prepare as much as possible. For example, practice a strong opening, drink hot tea for your voice, call the reporter by name and be conversational. More information and tips can be found at “Media Training Tips for Spokespeople” on our website.