By Robert LeCount
If you are in charge of your IT department, at some point you’re going to have to speak to the media. If you are like most tech people, talking to reporters is the last thing on your mind and probably ranks right up there with taking out the garbage. I felt the same way—until I found out what publicity can do for the bottom line.
Our company’s tech publicist, Melanie Rembrandt, author of Simple Publicity, gave me good advice on the topic: “By giving good media interviews, your business can obtain third-party credibility you cannot get in any other way. Plus, media coverage builds word of mouth that can significantly increase Website visits and sales fast without having to pay for advertising.”
Media coverage helps you stay competitive and top of mind with your target market, so it’s essential for business success. So, you need to overcome your dislike of speaking with the media. Here are some tips that can help.
To start, know that it’s going to take some time to go from wallflower to media expert, so begin your education as soon as possible. Make an appointment to talk to the head of your communications department. If you don’t have a communications department, find a good publicist or media trainer with technical knowledge and experience helping other tech professionals. (For potential experts, check with The Public Relations Society of America, www.prsa.org.)
A good publicist can guide you through the process that includes the following:
All you need to do here is learn as much about your company as possible. Talk to your communications expert and find out the key messages you want to convey to the media. Ask questions such as these:
What is our mission and brand?
Who is our target market?
Why are we unique?
What benefits do we offer?
What interesting technology do we provide?
Work on answers together and write them down. You’ll also want to review the topics that you need to avoid talking about in future interviews. After all, you don’t want to reveal trade secrets or pending legal matters by accident! Your communications expert will help you understand the process and feel more comfortable on interviews.
Next, review your notes and practice–either on your own or with a colleague—what you are going to say to the media. When you feel comfortable with the information, schedule a test media interview with your communications expert, either by phone or in front of a video camera. Review the results together and discuss ways for improvement.
Then practice and repeat the whole process. Remember, you are learning a new skill so don’t expect to be an expert overnight. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel doing a media interview.
Once in a while, a big media venue will call out of the blue and want an interview right away. When this happens, you need to do the best you can. After all, this is a huge opportunity you shouldn’t pass up. But (fortunately) most of the time, you can start with small local media venues to get your feet wet.
When you think you are ready to do an interview, have your communications expert set up a call with a small local newspaper. That way, you can do your first interview via phone and not have to worry about a camera.
Plus, you can look at your notes the entire time and have your communications expert in the room with you if you get stuck. More important, if you botch the interview, it won’t matter as much because it’s a small local media venue rather than a national or worldwide media conglomerate.
When I found out that I had to talk to the media, I was excited about the opportunity but pretty nervous. After all, this was not one of the skills I’d worked on as a technology expert. But I have to tell you, it’s really not that bad.
I did my first interview a few years ago, and it went pretty well. I did a lot of research and was prepared (probably over-prepared), and it ended up being easier than I thought it would be. Plus, it went by really fast.
When you think about it, a media interview is just a conversation. You are answering questions in a truthful way about your company and mentioning key points.
With that in mind, don’t get stressed out if your communications team asks you to learn how to handle a media interview. It’s a great opportunity and an honor.
Not only will handling media interviews help your business bring in new customers, but it means that you are moving up in the world. After all, if you are talking to the media, people at your organization have faith in your expertise and have chosen you to represent them in the news.
Robert LeCount is director of information technology for Rich Dad, a brand based on Robert Kiyosaki’s best-seller, Rich Dad Poor Dad. The Rich Dad Company uses innovative technology to offer a new way to think about money and investing. Robert can be reached at [email protected].