The scene is familiar to anyone who has watched cable news: A reporter with a microphone catches a CEO outside of his office and asks about a recent company controversy; the CEO is surprised and annoyed; he shoves his hand in front of the camera and says, “No comment,” before scurrying away.
At Mack Communications, the phrase “no comment” makes us cringe. More often than not, the public assumes guilt when they hear it. “No comment” is now equated to, “Yes, we’re guilty, but we don’t want to admit it,” or “We have something to hide.”
In today’s interconnected world, it’s incredibly easy for companies to communicate with the public. A business can email, Tweet, or send a press release. It’s also very easy for the public to speculate and spread false information through these mediums, fast. Saying “no comment” provides no information, encouraging the media or public to create their own narratives.
This is the final of a three-part series on how to conduct a successful interview with the media. Read previous posts about understanding the media and preparing for an interview.
Now that you’ve done your research and prepared your talking points, it’s time for the big event! Follow our top ten pieces of advice below, and you’ll be well on your way to being an interview pro:
This is part two in a three-part series on how to conduct a successful interview with the media. Read the previous post about understanding the media here.
One of the easiest ways you can make sure you have a successful interview is to adequately prepare. Below are our top pieces of advice to help you prepare for an interview.
Know what to expect: Conduct some research yourself: Has the reporter written on this topic before? What angle did they take? This might give you a better sense of what to expect during your interview. You can also ask the reporter what types of questions will be asked to get a general sense (they probably won’t give you specific questions). Make sure you’re up on current events in your field so you're less likely to be caught off-guard by a question.
This is part one in a three-part series on how to conduct a successful interview with the media.
Being interviewed by the media can be nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you’ve done it. However, interviews don’t have to be painful experiences; with the right amount of understanding and preparation, anyone can make it through an interview like a pro. The best way to ensure you start off on the right foot is to understand the media, so you better know what to expect. Before your interview, consider the following points:
Although it makes us cringe to see publicity go bad, we find that sticky situations can lead to lessons learned. After mulling it over, here’s what we think were a few of the top public relations/communications bloopers and blunders of 2016. Let's hope for fewer in 2017!
Ryan Lochte gets rowdy in Rio:
Olympic medalist and swimmer Ryan Lochte made headlines during this summer’s Rio Olympics after sharing a dramatic account of being robbed at gunpoint after a night out partying. However, once the press realized a few of his details didn’t quite add up, the Brazilian police conducted an investigation and revealed a different story: Surveillance footage had Lochte and posse drunkenly vandalizing a gas station. National embarrassment, a public apology, and a 10-month suspension from swimming ensued.
Mack assessment: As we’ve said before, honesty is the best policy. Lochte might have been able to prevent the situation spiraling into an international spectacle if he had copped to his mistake right away, and done damage control from there.
Flint, Michigan's water woes:
After switching water sources in 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan began to complain about dirty, discolored water, rashes and bad aromas. By 2015, water testing done by Virginia Tech revealed elevated lead levels, and the Michigan EPA began sounding the alarm over water quality. Yet even as evidence of the toxicity of Flint’s water continued to mount, officials at the Michigan statehouse downplayed the concerns of residents. By 2016, Obama declared a state of emergency in the city. The state government was pilloried over their handling of the situation, which put tens of thousands of people--including children--at risk.
Mack assessment: This is a classic case of a mismanaged crisis. When things go south, the first step is to acknowledge the crisis and speak to the concerns of the people affected. Too often companies and governments bury their collective heads in the sand, hoping the problem will go away. Ignoring the problem only exacerbates the crisis.
Brain cramp takes down Gary Johnson:
During an interview with MSNBC in September, a commentator asked Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson how he would address the refugee crisis in Aleppo, Syria. Johnson’s response-- “What is Aleppo?”-- was like the shot heard around the (Twitter) world. In what would later turn out to be an accurate prediction, the New York Times speculated that “the stumble could be a serious blow to Mr. Johnson’s campaign.”
Mack assessment: For TV interviews, it’s crucial to prepare beforehand to avoid being caught off guard. Sometimes, though, journalists may throw you a curve ball. Johnson would have benefited from learning how to block a question in order to respond only on topics you’re ready for.
[Photos via CNN]
With today’s endless news cycle, it’s more important than ever to respond to crises promptly and directly. That’s one reason why having a crisis communications plan in your back pocket is so important. It’s good to have facets of your plan memorized however, just in case you get caught off-guard by a particularly persistent reporter.
Although it’s best to always answer as honestly and directly as you can, keeping these five questions in mind may help you have more confidence in reassuring the public.
1- What happened?
Mack advice: Only tell what you know, and avoid speculation.
2- Why did [problem] happen?
Mack advice: Be willing to admit fault, but avoid pinning blame on anyone/department in particular. Making guesses can hurt the reputation of parties in the short run that weren’t involved at all.
3- Can this problem happen again? How do you know?
Mack advice: Be honest. Reassure the public that you’re doing everything to solve the current issue.
4- What are you doing to solve the problem?
Mack advice: Again, honesty is key. People want to see companies take action after a crisis, so give tangible examples of what your employees are doing to solve the problem.
5- Who else can we talk to and where can we receive updates?
Mack advice: It’s important to have a website available for crisis situations that can provide updates to the public. Be sure you can direct people there if asked.
Tell your story: don't leave it to the media to get it right. You'd be surprised at how many businesses and organizations do exactly the opposite. Whether it's fear of the media or a bunker mentality, that kind of thinking is usually a recipe for badly damaged media relations.
How do you tell your story? Over explain the issue and the response. While you're dealing with the media, take the same information directly to the public through social media and your own website.
If you're looking for suggestions for a possible press release, predictions are still an option.
It's early enough in the new year to offer your insights about what you think your industry or organization might encounter in the coming year. You can also add your take on the economy and how that could affect your customers over the next several months.
The great thing about predictions is that they offer you a chance to display your expertise and no one really checks to see how accurate you were. No one expects you to offer 100 percent certainty. It's the ideas that count.
Some newsmakers have become popular because they've learned the art of being media friendly. That is, they understand what reporters need and want when it comes to covering their industry or field.
So, are there certain tips or tactics one can use to become more media friendly? Absolutely. We'll outline them over a span of several posts. We suggest you try to put them to use at the next opportunity.
First, we'll look at sound bites.
A media friendly newsmaker has developed the knack of speaking in short, succinct and memorable sound bites. This sounds simple enough, but we can unpack it a bit more.
Tough questions and difficult circumstances can try anyone's patience, especially if you have to face the media in the middle of a crisis.
That's why staying cool under pressure is so important. Easy? Not at all. But essential.
The public, your customers, your employees -- they all want to see you succeed. They want to see you're in control. They want to know that you're handling the crisis.
They want to know that everything will be okay.