Although it’s safe to assume that the client you are putting on the phone is an expert in their field, what is not safe to assume is that they are experts at interviewing. Nailing an interview is a talent in and of itself, and while your client may be the CTO of a very successful company and a bonafide genius to boot, they may be woefully unprepared for a phone interview.
As PR professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure our clients are as prepared for any given interview as possible, but not only for their benefit; for our own as well. Reaching out to reporters is as much about building our brands as PR representatives and firms as it is about building our client’s reputation. If our clients are consistently terrible interviewees it will reflect poorly on us as the professionals in charge of their preparation and journalists may stop responding to our pitches (no matter how well crafted and applicable). We must therefore ensure, as much as is possible, that our clients are among the best interviews out there, which may even lead to future opportunities for commentary with the same reporter – a huge win for everyone.
Below I have laid out a few tips to help ensure the best possible result for every interview:
The best tool any PR professional can provide before any interview is the briefing document. This document is a cheat sheet we write up for our clients outlining every piece of relevant information about the interview: Background information in the reporter and outlet, previous coverage from the journalist (including competitor coverage if applicable), what type of questions are anticipated, key topics, and even smaller nuts and bolts details like time and dial-in information for the call should be included. It is our job to arm clients with as much relevant information before an interview as possible. Sending the briefing document a few days ahead of an interview ensures that clients have an efficient tool to learn as much as possible about their interviewer ahead of time.
Treat Them All the Same
The reality of PR is that it’s very easy to get a client excited and convince them to put in the extra time when you get the big opportunity, but a little harder when the opportunity is of the more modest variety. It’s at times like these that we must make sure the proper work is being put in. Getting the briefing document in a little early, and reminding your client that any and every interview is practice for the day the New York Times comes calling can go a long way towards getting them in the right frame of mind. Who knows? Sometimes a mention in smaller niche publications can even have a greater impact on business than an article in a top tier outlet because the right people are reading it.
Once the interview is over, often times we overlook one of the most important opportunities we have as PR representatives: Feedback. It’s always important to get feedback from both journalists and your own personal notes on how the interview went. Perhaps there was something that was unclear, or your client spoke too quickly or mumbled. It’s important to provide clients with constructive criticism, whether directly from the reporter or from your own notes about the conversation, to help them hone their interviewing abilities for next time.
Ultimately, as much as we would like to control the situation, at the end of the day we are not the ones participating in the interview. However, ensuring proper preparation and getting clients as much information as possible ahead of time will enable them to prepare properly and put in the necessary effort to nail the interview this time around, while providing feedback will help them develop the interviewing skills they need to succeed in future opportunities.