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12 media interview tips for 2012

A media interview is a critical opportunity to convey key messages about your company to customers, key stakeholders and the public. To assure that the final printed, online or broadcast story is accurate and includes your messages, here are twelve guidelines for 2012:

1. Focus on one or two key messages. Reinforce these prepared messages and verbally flag them for the reporter throughout your interview so that they are sure to understand what is important to you. Don’t wait for a leading question to convey these messages – from the very start of the interview use whatever question you are asked to bridge to your messages.

2. Keep it simple. Keep the real audience in mind (you may be talking to a reporter, but your real audience is the reader/viewer). Unless you are being interviewed by a highly technical journal, simplify your messages. Think about telling a story to someone who is not an expert – your mother, a friend, or neighbor. If complex issues or definitions can be simplified, the reporter is likely to get it right and the intended audiences will understand your message.

3. Practice makes perfect. Practice to yourself, in front of a mirror, film yourself (your smart phone will do the trick) and then practice with a colleague or PR professional. Even the most seasoned interviewees can’t wing-it, so ensure you practice before every interview.

4. Tell a story. Prepare compelling quotes or anecdotes in advance. Journalists make stories come alive through good quotes, meaningful anecdotes and images that readers can picture and relate to.

5. Speak for the company at all times. It is never appropriate to give personal opinions, criticize others or make off-color remarks.

6. Never speak off-the-record. Regardless of the rapport that you have with a reporter -- or promises made by the reporter -- keep all of your comments on the record when in the presence of a reporter, producer or photographer.

7. Anticipate tough questions. Decide in advance how to handle them. Discuss difficult issues and questions with your communication consultant before the interview. The direct approach is usually better than being evasive. When you cannot comment or information is proprietary, just say so, but use the opportunity to bridge back to a key message

8. When in doubt, call back. If you are unsure how to answer a question, or need to check facts, get back to the reporter later. Don’t fake it or feel that you should know the answer. Regardless of the reporter’s deadline, take your time, swallow your pride and provide only accurate information. Some questions may be appropriate for someone else – or another company – and not for you to answer.

9. Proprietary information. You do not have to share or discuss personnel or business proprietary information. It is fine to say that you understand the reporter’s interest, but the information they are requesting is propriety or confidential. Once you have said that, immediately bridge to some other related information that you can discuss. This helps take the focus off the topic that is off limits.

10. Offer to help. Refer the reporter to other important sources of information or to experts, particularly organizations with whom you partner.

11. Final facts and fact checking. At the end of the interview give the reporter a business card and offer to check facts or quotes. Offer your mobile phone number. You should never ask to review a story, but it is
OK for you to offer to check facts over the phone.

12. Enjoy. You’re the expert, get your messages across and use even the most sensitive questions to bridge to something positive and enjoy the opportunity to shine a light on the good things your organization is doing.

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There is no such thing as bad publicity...

...except your own obituary - according to the Irish author & dramatist Brendan Behan.

It might seem contradictory that any kind of success might follow from scandal: but scandal attracts attention, and this attention (whether gossip or bad press or any other kind) is sometimes the beginning of notoriety and/or other successes. Today, the often-used cynical phrase "no such thing as bad publicity" is indicative of the extent to which "success by scandal" is a part of modern culture.

BP used to be British Petroleum. Then it reinvented itself as Beyond Petroleum, extending the enterprise beyond black gold and becoming a major investor in new energy technologies.

All that counts for little now that the full extent of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is becoming clear. BP is now the acronym for Bad Publicity.

No doubt, like in many crisis situations, within the first few frightening hours, BP's lawyers and public relations teams presented to BP's board their views on how the company should respond. It's clear that the lawyers won. "Shift the blame onto someone else." And that is indeed what BP did in the immediate aftermath of the story breaking. BP blamed their contractors.

So, the continued interest/disgust in BP, their actions and their disaster-prone crisis communications begs the question, when does bad publicity become detrimental?

The cost so far:
* BP has agreed to create a $20 billion fund to compensate those affected
* An alleged $50 million on a television advertising campaign
* About $1 billion off their brand value according to some studies
* More than $100 billion in market value
* Stock is worth less than half the $60 or so it was selling for on the day of the explosion
* Oh, and who knows what on-the ground cleanup and PR support is costing?

Three years after the cleanup operation has completed its work - what will be the perception of BP?

When will BP (or will it ever) break even from the costs occurred and the missed opportunity cost? We will probably never know.

Maybe there is such a thing as bad publicity or at least a cost for bad publicity.

How do you value bad publicity?

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