Business leaders and professionals who want to promote their personal and business brands have faced a tough decision in recent weeks: Should they put those publicity efforts on hold during the COVID-19 crisis, or keep pitching their expertise to the media?
In most cases, yes, they should keep pitching.
There are many opportunities for getting in the media as long as one doesn’t come off as opportunistic. The media are looking for people who have the right credentials; who can provide quality advice to their audiences; and who can come through with a timely response to meet their deadlines.
Medical professionals are obviously in demand, but the media are also quoting financial professionals, supply chain experts, business consultants and people in many other fields. It’s a matter of determining where one’s expertise fits into what the media are talking about.
Once that media interview is landed, follow these suggestions to get the most out it:
Be on time. As with so many important things in life, it’s bad form to be late for a media interview. Print reporters are on deadline and tardiness can cause you to lose the opportunity. Meanwhile, radio hosts will have to scramble if they have you slotted for a live interview and you’re nowhere to be found. Being on time is respectful and will increase your chances of being their “go-to” expert in the future.
Be direct when answering questions. Print journalists, especially, don’t have the time to listen to extraneous information; they’re on deadline to get their articles written. Providing straight answers in a way that makes it easy for them to quote you will enhance your chances of being included in their article.
Be current on your information. Keep on top of the news and you will be able provide much more insightful observations, which is good for you, the interviewer and the audience.
Get local whenever possible. If you seek national media coverage, you can end up being interviewed by media outlets in New York City, Detroit, Denver or anywhere else in between. Before the interview, familiarize yourself with what’s happening in that city or state so that you can better address what’s pertinent to those audiences. You will come off as more informed and they will appreciate the interest you show in their specific problems.
Avoid technical jargon. Nearly every profession has jargon and acronyms. Avoid those because you will lose the host, and if you lose the host, you’ve lost that audience. Instead, use everyday language. Your message becomes all the more powerful when it can reach and be understood by a wider audience.
Limit your use of statistics. Don’t overload the audience with non-stop numbers. Instead, sprinkle them in judiciously throughout your answers. That allows the audience and the host to digest them in smaller chunks.
One final point worth remembering: It’s possible you will be asked a question and won’t know the answer. If that happens, don’t try to fake it.
Most of us – even in our areas of expertise — aren’t walking versions of an online encyclopedia. When you don’t know the answer to a question, just acknowledge that. TV and radio interviewers will move on to the next question. If your interview is with a print journalist, you can offer to find the answer and get back to them quickly. Your honesty will help you maintain your credibility as a go-to expert and the media will appreciate you all the more.
Marsha Friedman, author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, is a businesswoman and public relations expert with nearly 30 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and professionals in the field of business, health and finance. Using the proprietary system she created as founder and President of News & Experts, an award-winning national public relations agency, she secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for her clients.