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PR tips for small businesses: 20 dos and don’ts for media interviews


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Have you ever watched a media interview on local TV news and thought a spokesperson just made their company look, well, just really bad? Or, you read a local newspaper article that featured a “no comment” line from a spokesperson and felt that someone might be a little shady?

There are plenty of ways to botch a media interview and leave a lasting (and negative) impression on potential customers and key audiences. It’s actually pretty easy to do if you’ve never had a media interview before and don’t spend any time preparing for it.

To help you and your small business prep for a media interview, whether it’s on the phone or in front of a camera, here are 20 do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

Media interview dos

  1. Do prepare and approach your interview from the public’s viewpoint.
  2. Do assume every word you say will be quoted.
  3. Do keep to the facts and keep answers short and to the point.
  4. Do be authoritative and confident.
  5. Do make your delivery anecdotal and conversational.
  6. Do provide examples, analogies or metaphors when relevant.
  7. Do cite sources when necessary.
  8. Do be yourself and be honest.
  9. Do conduct phone interviews via landline, unless mobile is absolutely necessary. With a landline, you won’t have to worry about a dropped call or poor reception.
  10. Do dress for the occasion if you’re going on TV for an interview. Avoid all white and busy designs with a lot of color.

Media interview don’ts (with tips)

  1. Don’t ever wing an interview. Like any other interview in life, it pays to prepare. Have a Q&A session with a colleague and set yourself up with three to four key points you’d like to communicate during the interview.
  2. Don’t conduct an impromptu interview if a reporter contacts you directly. If you do, you won’t have time to prepare.
  3. Don’t ever go off the record or say “no comment”. Everything you say during an interview can be quoted. And, instead of saying “no comment,” say you are unsure of the answer or cannot discuss it. You can also ask a reporter if you can follow up with an answer before the end of day.
  4. Don’t ever argue with a reporter. All it takes is one soured relationship for a reporter to never interview you again.
  5. Don’t talk too much and go off on tangents. Try speaking in soundbites and, when appropriate, make comments that are two to three sentences long.
  6. Don’t answer mechanically. Be loose and conversational.
  7. Don’t speculate or exaggerate. Stick to the facts, or you might have to back up your statements at a later date.
  8. Don’t disparage your competition. It’s not polite to talk bad about others. If a question comes up about your competition, let a reporter know you can’t speak for other businesses, then transition back to your message.
  9. Don’t drop your guard when the interview is over. It wouldn’t be good if you said something out-of-context and the camera was still rolling.
  10. Don’t ask to see a story before it runs. Unless it’s an advertorial, it’s not going through you for approval. If there is a factual mistake in an online or print story after it runs, follow up with the reporter and politely ask for a correction.

And, one last thing to keep in mind: you should always view your media interviews as a win-win opportunity.

You’re looking to get the word out about your small business. The media is looking for relevant sources and good interviewees to add value to their story. Everybody involved wins.

Have you had good or bad experiences with media interviews? Tell us in the comments and check out RingCentral’s In the News page for more stories and interviews.

Originally published Apr 17, 2013, updated Dec 30, 2022

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