‘Failure to prepare is preparing to fail’

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.
As well as knowing your journalist, it’s important to know your client too.
  • 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?
So now you’re prepared, it’s time for the big showdown, and this is where it gets important. This interview is precious time and if your not prepared for every little detail, it could go wrong.
  • 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.
Make sure your client is prepared!
As important as it is that we are prepared for the interview, it is equally as important that our client is and they are equally as clued up. A good way to ensure this is to create a briefing document to give to the client a couple days before hand which outlines:
  • Time and Date, Location, Attendes
  • Background 
  • Information about the journalist, what they do, interests and history of employment/education/achievements
  • Magazine information
  • Key Communication points
The follow up: The follow-up is very important, a journalist is a very busy person and it is important to thank them for their time and to make sure they know if there is anything else they need they can contact you. A press pack is always a good thing to give them at the end of the interview, so they have more information for the follow up coverage! As well as following up with the journalist, it is important to follow up with the client and don’t let them feel distant. Keep them up to date with the feedback and results of the interview.
What’s in it for us?: As well as fantastic coverage for your client, one-to-one interviews allow a fantastic opportunity for us as PR people to build relationships with journalists and make our contact in the future a lot easier.
  • Pre-preparation before set up
  • Preparation for all eventualities
  • Pro-active during interviews
  • Follow up is important!
Love to hear any stories you have of bad and good one-to-one interviews!

One thought on “‘Failure to prepare is preparing to fail’

  1. Really proud of you xx – Leah was one of the students whom did the PR for my book – Her work has grown from strength to strength.. I will always work with you.. keep it up you star xxx anstey

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