Fresh eyes

Relax, I’m a journalist

Relax im a journalist
Ben Hewes Head of Video; PR & Comms Manager

Published by Ben Hewes,
Content Marketing & Video Production Manager at Freshfield

Being interviewed by a journalist can be a nerve-wracking experience for anybody.

This can be amplified when you’re being interviewed about your business, after all the reputation of the company is at stake.

But careful thought and planning can make it a positive experience all round.

It is important to relax and enjoy it for what it is – the chance to build a relationship with a reporter, to convey plenty of positive messages to a target audience and to get experience of the interview process itself.

When arranging and managing an interview, as ex-journalists ourselves, we would want to agree the line of questions and the overall context to make sure the reporter hasn’t a ‘hidden agenda.’ However, once agreed, the element of trust is paramount.

There can be a number of reasons why you may be sitting down with a journalist. My colleague Paul Tustin recently wrote an insightful blog on crisis communications, so I won’t cover that.

Instead I’ll take a look at working with a journalist who has perhaps requested to know more about your business, or for example interview the chief exec over expansion plans.

First of all, check how long the journalist has to spend with you. Journalists are busy people like you and sometimes reporters don’t have long to spend out of the office. It won’t go down well if you’ve organised a formal tour of the R&D facility and brought in the entire board of directors to say hello, when all the reporter wanted was a 15 minute chat about your plans for a new product launch.

Don’t be too formal. This is a chance to impress, but also a chance to engage with someone who could become a key professional ally. Make sure there is a cup of coffee on offer or even a sandwich if you’re meeting at lunchtime.

Do your research. You may be a director of the business, and have been with the company for 15 years, but can you remember all the details about the manufacturing process used to produce your best-selling product, or how many staff you employ?

Pull together key facts and figures about the business, and don’t be afraid to refer to notes – a journalist would much rather have accurate figures. If there is anything you’re unsure of, tell them you’ll check the facts and get in touch with them later – then make sure to follow up.

It is OK to be open about your turnover and staff numbers. This is the information that a journalist will certainly ask for, and much of it can be obtained through an online request to Companies House anyway. You may as well save the journalist the effort and simply be open.

Finally, don’t expect to be shown a copy of the article before it is printed, and definitely don’t ask a reporter to read back their notes. This is a sure fire way to make sure that reporter will never report on your business again, and casts doubts on their professionalism and ability.

If you have prepared well, there will be nothing in the article that you need to worry about. For more advice on effective media relations or media training, please contact us.

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