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Business Owners and Entrepreneurs: How to Prepare for Interviews with Reporters

By Paul Lima |

Your company lands a new contract, launches a new service, or publishes a new information piece. You want to let people know, so you issue a media release, which you post on your website and/or blog, and link to using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media.

A reporter calls, wanting to interview you. How you reply to questions can have an impact on your business because, based on what you say in the article, potential customers might call or visit your business or website. That's why you need to prepare for the interview.

To prepare, you should develop key messages - the points you want to make about your business - so you can weave them into your answers.

If a journalist were writing an article about my media training services, I would expect to be asked, "Where is your company located?" The short answer is, "Toronto, Ontario." However, my key message answer is, "I'm based in Toronto, but I've conducted media training across Canada and in the U.S.A., in person, by phone, and even using Skype."

I've answered the question but have also let readers outside Toronto know that I can work with them. That's part of my key message.

Say the reporter asks what a typical media training session costs. I could quote a "typical" price; however, my prices change according to circumstance. A rush crisis management session involving senior executives costs more than a short session with a small business owner. So I might say, "There is a range of prices. A two-day media interview training session involving several executives would cost more than a two-hour session involving one business owner. Both sessions, however, would be customized to fit the client's needs."

Notice how I've given a range of sessions and audiences, and worked in the key term – "customized." Most reporters would accept that; some might ask a follow-up about price. I don't control the questions; I control my answers. I might reply, "The length of training, and the number of people attending, vary. So does the fee, which starts at $350 for a customized 2-hour phone session."

Again, notice how I weave in aspects of my key messages. If you don't think about your answers first, you might say, "I'd prefer not to talk about it." Or you might quote a ridiculously high (or low) fee. Either way, you miss an opportunity to work in aspects of your key messages.

There are no guarantees that what you say will make it into the story, unless you are interviewed live on air; however, if you don't convey your key messages, you won't get your story out.

To prepare for interviews, think about the most pertinent information you want to convey. Write out potential questions and your answers. Keep your answers short and focused-about 20 to 45 seconds per answer. Supplement answers with anecdotes about your products, services, or customers that help demonstrate what you want to say. If possible, get permission to "drop the name" of an established customer that has benefited by working with you.

As you answer questions, judiciously repeat key messages for emphasis, but make sure you also answer the questions so you don't sound like you are in "spin" mode-like a politician during an election campaign (or at any time, for that matter).

This might sound simple to do; however, unless you prepare, you might forget to convey information you want to express, you might convey the wrong information, or you might convey information that circumstances dictate should be held back until you are authorized to release it. On the other hand, if you are prepared, you will be able to articulately reply to the interview questions.

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