Tailor talking points to different media archetypes

A series of interviews with varying reporters from the trade and business press have been set up for you.

A series of interviews with varying reporters from the trade and business press have been set up for you. You know the story you want to tell and you feel passionate about the message. The next steps are to learn your ABCs and do your homework on the reporters.

To  ensure you stick to your key points during the interviews, it's a good idea to practice the ABC – answer, bridge, conclude – method. Here's how:

Establish an objective for the interview, outlining what you intend to accomplish. Make sure the objective aligns with the topic of the interview and your company's key messages. Learn and practice your ABCs with anyone willing to play reporter.

A – Acknowledge or answer the question;

B – Bridge that to your key message point by saying something like “that reminds me of another point…”

C – Conclude with your key points;

It's more difficult than it sounds, and it's why we spend more than half our media-training sessions conducting mock interviews. We simulate face-to-face, radio, telephone, and broadcast interviews and record them for play back and critique purposes. It's extremely valuable for the participants to encourage and give feedback to their colleagues. It fosters a positive atmosphere where each spokesperson gets better with each interview.

A final point is to make sure you read the reporter's most recent articles and get a sense for his or her style. Ask your agency or in-house PR guru for a briefing document with background on the reporter, the outlet, and tips on the types of questions the reporter is likely to ask.

We all know that no two reporters are the same, so it's helpful to consider reporting styles. Most will be a mix of all of these, but typically, a dominant style stands out.

Here are the four most common media archetypes:

Novice – Simplify your message and story. Don't overwhelm with too much detail.

Skeptic/critic – Be armed with facts to support your statements.

Silent type – Frequently check-in with the reporter to gauge their engagement. Ask open-ended questions strategically.

Expert/interpreter – Listen carefully to how he or she interprets what you're saying and don't be afraid to politely point out inaccuracies by saying, “Actually, what I'm saying is…”

Cheryl Gale is managing partner of March Communications.

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