I first heard this quote a long time ago, but never really knew the meaning of it until I was thrown into full time work and huge amounts of responsibility for clients from the blissful world of a University student. Preparation is a huge factor in PR, and being prepared for everything that you do with your client, journalists, or any other external influence you cannot control.
On this subject though, I am going to talk about one-to-one interviews. Having never been involved in them before becoming a full-time Account Executive, I was never aware of the amount of thought and preparation involved, and I thought I would share some thoughts with you about this.
One-to-one interviews with your clients and key journalists are a fantastic way of gaining lots of benefits for yourself and your client, and huge coverage opportunities. (Considerably more than you will get by just sending out a press release.) But how can we be fully prepared for these, what are the risks of these interviews and how can we reduce them, and what can we do to maximise all the benefits we can get out of our short time in the interview?
- What’s the story? – What is the story behind this interview and what is the story that you want the journalist to know. By knowing the story, the interview instantly has a point and you can avoid any unnecessary waffle which might take away from the main point.
- Know the Interviewer – Who is the journalist? What magazine do they work for, what are their interests, what sort of person are they? If you know that the journalist is a hard person to deal with, then you can warn your client so they know how to best deal with them and do not feel offended. Also, if a client has a common interest, they could get on like a house on fire!
- Audience – Is the audience of their magazine the right audience for your client? It might be great to set up these interviews but if it is the wrong audience, there really is no point in doing it and it will be a waste of time for all involved and a disappointment to your client.
- Value Perception – Before the interview, try and find out your client’s perception of the publication. It might not be an important magazine to you, but it might be huge for them and reach their key audiences. Or vice versa, meaning your client may not be too satisfied.
- Predicted Outcomes – Make sure you know the results you and the client want to be delivered. Make sure you discuss before the interview. What main points do they want to push across? Any new products they would particularly like to talk about? Make sure your aware of this throughout the entire process.
- What are your clients personality/interests? Is there any common ground between them and the interviewer?
- How are their interview and story telling strengths? It doesn’t matter if they have a great story to tell, if their not very good at telling it, it won’t get across.
- What are their weaknesses?
- Logistics – Do you have contact details and have given all directions? There is nothing worse than when a journalist hasn’t turned up and you cannot contact them.
- Be prepared for the different scenarios – what if the journalist doesn’t turn up? You need to be quick on your feet, find out where they are and offer to reschedule.
- What if the client and the journalist aren’t getting on? Be proactive and make sure you participate to lead the interview back to common ground and the main points of the story.
- When and where? When and where will the interview be held? There a lot of points to consider when organising this. Are you going to the client office or their showroom? If so, does the journalist drive? If not, is it near a train station, would they like to be picked up? Is it at a product launch? If so, you need to manage the time of all the different journalists who would like to talk.
- Our role: Passive vs active: This is an important one. What is our role as the PR person? Do we stand on the sidelines and not get involved, or do we make a conscious effort to active and involved? Personally, I would always opt to be active. By making notes, we can use these for the follow up and by paying attention we can ensure the interview is going the way we would like it too. If we think our client is talking about the things we think they should, we can steer the conversation back and as long as we have good product knowledge and knowledge of the important things to discuss, it should be successful.
- Time and Date, Location, Attendes
- Information about the journalist, what they do, interests and history of employment/education/achievements
- Magazine information
- Key Communication points
- Pre-preparation before set up
- Preparation for all eventualities
- Pro-active during interviews
- Follow up is important!