Prep for the press

While covering the Minneapolis Boat Show, I noticed that few people wanted to be interviewed. Even the smoothest-talking salesmen clammed up with a simple question like, “What are you excited about this year?”

Sure, nobody wants to say something wrong or disparage the company name, but a quick interview can be great exposure or put customers at ease in a crisis situation, so be prepared.

Here are a few tips to ready yourself for the next interview:

Designate a media contact.

This is key, and several dealerships I spoke with designated a contact on the spot – usually someone out of earshot who were quite surprised to be volunteered.

Choose someone who is comfortable speaking to reporters and make sure everyone on the team knows who that person is. For larger organizations, there may be more than one contact. Take some time and find someone in every segment of the business that can answer questions knowledgeably.

Brainstorm your own questions and answers.

Get ahead of the questions by putting on your own press hat. If something happens at your dealership like a theft or a fire and the local media comes calling, don’t fire from the hip.

Write down the  main points you want to cover that put you in a positive light, as well as anecdotes or facts to back them up. Then, think of the best and worst questions that might come up.

This is especially important in a crisis situation, don’t get caught off guard and say something that could put your business in a negative light.

Practice makes perfect.

Sit the team down and interview your media contact.

Getting comfortable answering questions is easy with support. In crisis mode, hold your own offline press conference in the office and run through those main points and the questions that you and your team came up with.

Know when to say, “No.

Finally, know when to throw all this advice out the window and clam up.

If a reporter asks an especially leading question or tries to put you on the spot, don’t be afraid to say, “I can’t answer that right now.”

If they keep pushing, don’t get emotional, stay calm and try to steer the interview back to your one of your main points. If that doesn’t work, you can always say, “Sorry, this interview is over.”

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