Being interviewed for newspaper, magazine or Internet articles is a great way for small business owners to get the word out about their companies, assuming they say the right things during those one-on-one chats, of course.
How can you ensure you do just that the next time a reporter rings you up for a quote or two? Follow the advice of Margie Zable Fisher, president of Zable Fisher Public Relations in Boca Raton, Florida, and Barbara Rozgonyi, author, speaker and principal of CoryWest Media LLC, a Chicago-based strategic social marketing consultancy.
What Reporters Don’t Want
Specifically, Zable Fisher suggests that small business owners avoid falling into the "my company or product is amazing because..." trap. "Reporters don't want to hear about how great your business is," she says. Rather, they want to hear "how you can help their readers with your ideas and experiences."
2. Apathetic or neutral positioning
If you're not going to "take a stand" while talking with a reporter, you may as well not talk with them at all, says Rozgonyi. After all, there's no reason to quote you if you aren’t going to express an opinion on the topic at hand. Her advice: "Be on one side or the other; the more opinionated you are, the more likely you'll be featured" in the finished product.
3. Verbose replies
Rozgonyi also recommends against responding to a journalist’s questions with overly lengthy answers. The reason: "It's challenging to edit comments into a sentence or two after a long-winded conversation."
4. "No comment"
Think long and hard before doling out this dreaded quote, suggests Rozgonyi—especially, she adds, because "you might be the best source for the story, but you're making it impossible to tell it."
5. "Can I read your article before it's printed?"
Zable Fisher advises against beginning or ending an interview with this question because media outlets "don't have the time to do that, especially nowadays"—what with their smaller staffs and tighter deadlines.
What Reporters Do Want
1. Short sound bites
To make sure the sound bites you’ll share during your interview are top-notch, Rozgonyi recommends making "a short list of sound bites—just a sentence or two that sums up the story" before you get on the phone or meet with a reporter. Also, "practice [them] to see how they sound."
2. Numbers and statistics
Although small business owners tend to shy away from providing data, numbers or other such information "is often critical to a media piece," shares Zable Fisher. Although Rozgonyi agrees, adding that "if you can work in a stat or two to support [your] position, do it," she also warns that you shouldn’t "be overly promotional."
3. "Do you need any other sources?"
If the writer says yes, Zable Fisher suggests providing a few (assuming you know of any, of course). This "shows you’re willing to help the reporter, not just yourself, which builds credibility."
4. "Here's my cell phone number; call me anytime."
According to Zable Fisher, this also builds credibility with journalists, who often are on deadline. In addition, it increases the likelihood that you’ll be approached for quotes and commentary in the future.
5. Thank you
"Always write a follow-up email to let the media contact know you appreciate the interview opportunity," says Rozgonyi. In that e-mail, "include a brief recap of your comments and request, if possible, that a link to your site be included." And should the resulting article appear online, "comment as soon as it goes live with thanks to the reporter and include a comment or two on the [media outlet's] site."