Communicating with the media in a COVID-19 world
Updated: Sep 1
Our Move the Stairs Friday chat this week is a return to our M&C roots: communicating with media! It's one of the fundamental pillars of our company because each of us has a background in either on-air or behind-the-scenes journalism.
You'll find a link to the video discussion at the bottom of this blog, or take a look at the summary of everything we covered today!
Topic 1: How does a business owner or a brand ambassador prepare themselves ahead of a phone call from the media?
Know what you want to communicate ahead of time. This is your messaging and you should know it backward and forward. In the COVID-19 era, this could take different forms:
Do you have signage posted around your office with your expectations explained to staff, visitors and/or customers?
Does your social media message reflect your physical signage? For example, if you're sharing photos, is your staff wearing masks and adhering to social distancing?
Are you using the internet to communicate your message on a thought leadership level? Are you writing blogs about your business or brand's COVID-19 experience? Think about using an email campaign to keep customers and staff informed.
Topic 2: How can you use your business or brand as an example to others?
The best thing any business owner or brand ambassador can do is to be ready for the one question they don't want to be asked. If you or your backup spokesperson can answer that question, you'll be prepared for anything. Keep in mind this question may be outside of the scope of your current interview. Make a list of what potential questions and answers you might need.
When you're developing answers to your questions, think of delivering your message to the M&C three. In the room with you is:
Your best friend, representing the energy you bring to the room when a reporter asks you a question.
The second person in the room with you is your worst enemy. This person will take your words, no matter how genuine, and try to twist them into something that makes your business or brand look bad.
The third person in the room is your grandmother. Use straightforward language without jargon so your answers are clear and understandable. You want to invite people into the conversation, so ditch industry jargon and focus on having a conversation. If you must use a technical term, explain it briefly in context so everyone understands what you're talking about.
Topic 3: The phone rings and it's a member of the media wanting to interview you, now what?
Ask these two questions:
What is your deadline?
What are you looking for in this interview?
Then tell the reporter you'll call back within 15-20 minutes while you gather the information or spokesperson you need and do some research on the reporter, outlet, and topic. A reporter is often on a hard deadline and the more you can do to make their life easier, the smoother and less stressful your interview experience will be. Make sure to call the reporter back when you said you would and be ready to set up an interview or have actionable information for him/her (even if that means you can't help with a particular topic but can refer the reporter to someone who can.)
During the interview, be mindful of what's going to make the reporter (and you!) look the best. What's the best backdrop? Can you provide your direct contact in case of a follow-up question? Offer the reporter access to the restroom, water or coffee, and make him or her comfortable.
Topic 4: It's time for your interview! What are some best practices you can incorporate into your interviewing routine?
Dress for success! Check out our free downloadable for all of the tips and tricks!
Create an emotional connection with your reporter. Empathy in the COVID-19 era is paramount- concern for the people suffering from COVID-19 or its effects comes first in all your communications.
Stick to one point per response. A best practice is to go into an interview with 3 main points.
Use bridging to acknowledge difficult questions and provide a brief answer that brings you back to one of your main three message points.
Use flagging to put verbal emphasis on your most important points.
Download our interview best practices cheat sheet below!
M&C Communications specializes in CBD public relations, crisis communications and media training. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for the very latest on public relations and communications.