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Henry Stimpson’s PR and Marketing Tips
Spring 2016

Why You Aren’t Getting Quoted by the Media—and What to Do About It

Required reading for anyone doing media interviews or setting up reporter interviews for clients is a brief article, “The Brutal Truth Behind Why You Aren't Getting Quoted By The Media.”

The article (http://tinyurl.com/jm5vwd9) cites the top peeves of Forbes financial columnist Ky Trang Ho:

. The Story Hijacker wants to talk about something else.
· The Long Talker goes off on tangents forever and ever.
· The Faster Talker is so rapid-fire the poor reporter can’t keep up.
· Captain Obvious spouts meaningless clichés.
· The Narcissist turns every answer into blatant self-promotion.

I’ll add one of my own. The Clam gives one-sentence answers, at most. Getting more information is like pulling teeth, if a clam had teeth.

Remember, the journalist is your customer. And the first rule of customer relations is to find out what the customer needs and wants. And then make your customer happy.

Here are some tips I compiled a few years ago that are worth reiterating.

Preparing for the interview

Understand the outlet’s audience. Who reads or views it?

Find out what the reporter wants to know.
Most reporters will give you their questions before the interview or indicate in general what they are after if you ask.

Think about what you want to say before you interview. Define two or three main points you would like to make about your subject. Gather facts, figures, and anecdotes to support your points. If you can, anticipate follow-up questions the reporter might ask and have responses ready.

Send background in writing if it can help the reporter. If you have a relevant article you’ve written or a PowerPoint that offers valuable background, ask the reporter if he or she would like to receive it. Don’t overdo it—two or three documents at most, unless the reporter requests more.

During the interview

Answer the reporter’s questions. This may sound obvious, but not everyone does so. Don’t be a hijacker or a narcissist!

Use insider terminology judiciously. If you’re talking to a writer from a trade publication or someone who covers a beat, you can use technical terminology, but even here, don’t use it more than needed. If you’re talking to a reporter from a consumer outlet, go light on jargon and explain any buzzwords the reporter may not know.

Listen for cues that show that the reporter is—or isn’t—getting it. Don’t assume the reporter’s knowledge of your subject. It may be excellent, or nonexistent, or somewhere in the middle. If a journalist doesn’t understand you, it will show up in his or her line of questioning. Probe a little if you sense the reporter may be confused. Try explaining a point differently. If a reporter bases questions on incorrect information or assumptions, politely set the record straight.

Be colorful. When appropriate, tell stories that illustrate your point and give examples. Using similes and metaphors adds color.

If you stick your foot in your mouth, you can pull it out. If something came out wrong, just ask the reporter, “Could you scratch that? What I meant to say is ___________________.”

Don’t ask to see the story before it’s published. But if the reporter offers to send it to you for fact checking, accept the offer. Provide corrections where the reporter has the facts wrong. But don’t try to rewrite your quotes unless they’re inaccurate.

Going “off the record” should be rare. Don’t do it unless you have a really good reason—like some truly tantalizing bit of insider knowledge you don’t want to be attributed to you—and are confident the reporter will honor confidentiality. Confirm that the reporter is willing to go off the record. When you’re done with the off-the-record part, say, “OK, we’re back on the record now.”

copyright Stimpson Communications


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