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Gold: 5 tips for dealing with the media as an expert source.

TV and print reporters interview experts on all kinds of topics, from how to design a home office to the best ways to save for retirement. As an expert in your field, you may be called to participate in a broadcast segment or print article, which can be a great way to build your brand and share a positive message about your company. Here are five tips for ensuring a positive media experience.

When the media calls, answer. If you have the opportunity to be interviewed on TV or in print, drop whatever you’re doing. As an executive, one of your most important roles is to make sure your company gets positive press. Members of the media can easily call one of your competitors, so when they choose to call you, seize the opportunity to get your company name and message out there. Respond in a timely manner and make yourself available. Give the reporter your cell phone number and tell him he can contact you any time.

Plan what you want to say and how you’ll say it. Have a plan of what you want to get across in any media interview. The reporter has her own agenda: She wants to provide her audience with an interesting, informative article. But you also have an agenda: to communicate a positive message about your company. You want to answer the reporter’s questions, but know how to pivot. Say a reporter is doing a TV segment on dog wellness, with helpful hints about how people can ensure their dog is healthy. She might interview a dog breeder. The breeder can share his expertise on keeping dogs healthy, while also communicating that he has been a successful breeder for 25 years, and that he puts a lot of love and effort into producing healthy, happy puppies.

Know what you know, and what you don’t. As CEO of your company, you should do most of the media interviews. You understand your company’s big picture better than anyone, and you’re the face of the organization. But sometimes there are people within your organization that have more specialized knowledge of a particular subject. Say your company markets nutritional supplements. You may know which of your products are the most highly acclaimed and the biggest sellers, but you may not know the exact science behind every product. So if the interview is about how a particular supplement works, it may be best to tap the scientific expert who works on that product line to do the interview. On a related note, if a reporter asks you a question that you can’t answer, there’s nothing wrong with replying, “That’s a good question, and I want to do some research to get you a good answer. Can I get back to you later today?” Don’t say “No comment,” and don’t guess at an answer.

Respect the reporter. Always treat reporters with respect. Acknowledge the reporter’s name, whether in a TV, telephone or web interview. Be polite and positive. Say things like “That’s a good question” and “Thank you for including me.” Even if you think a question is ridiculous, don’t make the reporter feel stupid. Don’t say, “Why did you ask me that?” You don’t know how the reporter will be able to take your answers and meld the information into a story. Keep in mind that if you’re negative and abrasive, the story will come across with a negative tone. And if you talk down to a reporter, she’ll look elsewhere the next time she needs an expert in your field. Dress the part. If you’re being interviewed on camera, put some thought into your appearance. Gentlemen, if you’re wearing a suit, button the jacket; it looks more professional. In lieu of a suit, a golf shirt with your company logo is an excellent option. Smile when you talk, and don’t slouch. Of course, many interviews today are being done over Zoom. Be sure to dress professionally (at least from the waist up), and pay attention to the background. Rather than a disorganized mess, a pleasing, neat backdrop – perhaps with your company logo featured prominently – will help show you and your company in a better light.

Ron Gold is president and CEO of Marketing Works, a full-service public relations and marketing firm based in East Setauket, N.Y. Visit www.marketingworkspr.com.


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