19 May 2017

The ultimate guide to working with the media

Working with journalists can feel intimidating. Here are a few tips for getting the story out that you want to tell, ensuring you get the right message, angle and key points across:

Preparing for a press interview

• Outline your story. Have a beginning, middle and end. Know what you want to communicate, even what headline you ideally want to come out with
• Spend extra time preparing for the tough questions that you don’t want to be asked
• Prepare the messages you want to communicate with specific hard facts and solid proof points (number of sales, number of employees, number of markets)

At the interview


• If it’s a face-to-face interview, consider your body language. Remember the 70:30 rule: 70% is how you look, 30% is what you say
• Sit up straight. Leaning back looks too relaxed and leaning forward too intense and anxious
• If possible, make sure the setting for the interview is relatively quiet


• Ensure you know what the company messages are and make sure you drop them into the interview. This is an opportunity to position your company correctly in the market
• Aim to communicate those messages a few times throughout the interview. It might feel like you’re repeating yourself, but often they get barely noticed unless repeated
• Don’t go off the record – unless you are Brazilian bank trying to influence the markets without it being assigned to you (apart from them, I’ve never seen this used well)

Learning how to bridge

This is a common technique that you hear politicians using all the time – and an important one to know.

• When asked a question you can’t or don’t want to answer, say “I can’t comment on that but what I can tell you is…” – and have different ways of saying this
• But always answer each question, even if it’s just to say the above
• Be honest. If you don’t know the answer say so, and say you will need to get back to them on that (if it’s not a live interview)

Dealing with a crisis

In today’s environment, it’s becoming inevitable that a company will have a media crisis to deal with at some point.

• Have a crisis plan in place that covers the likely scenarios your business could encounter. For example, in construction, it could be an employee injury. In other markets, it could be a cyber-attack. Nowadays there are several types of potential crises depending on your market
• There is no particular advantage of going in front of the camera or on the radio. Instead, prepare a series of statements that are issued regularly to update the media on how you are handling the situation. That way, you can communicate exactly what you want to say because it’s written. Remember that often, if the police are involved, there is very little that can be said until a full investigation has taken place
• Keep the media informed throughout the crisis