Editor’s note: Steve Cooper is a friend and former colleague when we both worked at Entrepreneur. Steve went on to launch Hitched Media, which includes a nationally acclaimed online magazine, hitchedmag.com. His articles are now also regularly published on Forbes.com, as well. His last article was dead-on-point when it comes to interviewing skills, so I asked Steve if he would allow me to publish his article here. He consented, and I am delighted to present it to you—to read and put into practice. Whether you’re doing a video interview or not, there’s plenty to glean from Steve’s piece…take it away, Steve!
Let’s face it, all business owners want a little more press—preferably the good kind. Over the weekend I was asked to do an interview for a newspaper and I went through my usual ritual and thought I’d share these five simple tips to help when journalists start ringing your phone.
Be available. As a journalist myself, I can tell you that when I’m on a deadline sometimes the first person I want to interview is not always the one who makes the final story—it’s often the person I’m able to get a hold of. This weekend was a holiday, but I made sure I was able to carve out a little time to be available. When opportunity comes calling, be sure you are there to pick up the phone.
Do your homework. Most of the time you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re being interviewed about. Even if you feel you know what’s coming at you, be sure to brush up on your own facts, industry numbers and whatever else you think they might ask you. Being prepared will also boost your confidence, which can be heard in your voice and it will make the entire interview easier. If they mention something that isn’t true be sure to correct them. If they ask you a question and you’re unsure, tell them you’ll look up the information and will follow-up via e-mail.
Be yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with someone and I could tell they were trying to put on a facade to make themselves sound, I’m assuming, how they thought I wanted them to sound. Just be yourself. Nobody knows how to be you better than you! Also, when you take away the pressure of trying to be someone else, you’ll be able to spend more time preparing and listening to the questions being asked. Be proud of who you are and let them hear it.
Get your plugs in. In the end you don’t have any control over what winds up in the final article—on occasion the journalist writing the piece doesn’t either. Regardless, whether the journalist is putting together a profile of your business or they are interviewing you for your expertise, make sure to mention your brand, the product or message that’s important to you. Remember that you are your company’s best ambassador, the one who can most effectively articulate and define your story. If you don’t explicitly state your perspective, it’s left to the journalist to fill in the gaps, which may or may not make you happy.
Ask your own questions. Find out when the piece will be published and where it will be published (i.e., what section, print, online, etc.). Also, since just about everything winds up online (even stuff in print) ask the journalist to send you a link to the final piece once it’s available. When you do get the link, be sure to share it on your social networks and add it to your website’s press page—if you have one. This will help extend the reach and give the piece a little longer life. In many cases an interview in one publication can turn into several published interviews and mentions.
Bonus Tip: Lastly, with the added attention some publicity can steer toward your website, make sure it’s up to date, your contact information is easy to find and the site, overall, is working properly.
Thank you, Steve, for your timely commentary!