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Many PR tips provide advice on whether to agree to media interviews during a reputational crisis, but fewer seem to answer the question as to whether you should accede to an interview request during the normal course of work.

Many organisations receive requests from media contacts for interview or comment when they issue a news release, invest or launch a new product or service.

It’s very tempting to say yes to every such request. After all, a journalist has responded positively to something you actively want to publicise. But you should exercise due diligence before accepting any media interview request. Here is a mental checklist to go through. The same advice holds true when you are e-mailed asking for more information or a commissioned feature.

Is the medium something of genuine influence to your stakeholders?

  • Does it give you enhanced visibility with important segments of your key audiences?
  • Is it credible or would there be a better medium you could contact to suggest an interview?

By the way, if the answers to these questions are ‘No’, perhaps you shouldn’t be sending that journalist information in the first place.

Is there a commercial consideration?

Some interviews come with strings attached. Do they expect you to advertise in the publication or pay a fee in some other way (e.g. to have a colour photograph reproduced?). If so, be wary. Sometimes, the opportunity depends on you providing a list of your suppliers, who may be tapped up for advertising “in support” of your contribution. Nothing specifically wrong with this, of course, but it’s rare that such a title will really be the most influential in your marketplace.

Do you have anything to add to the news release?

To make the article more interesting for journalist and reader, you must be prepared to give more information than was in the press release. If you can’t, the journalist might as well write the piece from the information they’ve already received.

Who is the right person to handle the interview?

This is crucial, for a host of reasons:

  • Right level of seniority for the publication – a busy CEO of a multinational won’t probably be the best candidate to answer questions from a local paper; while the sales manager probably won’t be thanked for taking that call from the Financial Times.
  • Right level of expertise – if the story is technical or professional, it’s vital that the interviewee has the required technical knowledge to answer the journalist’s questions.
  • Right personality – boring interviewees give boring interviews. So find someone who can create rapport with the journalist while keeping their focus on the key elements in the story.

Will the interview illuminate your company strategy?

Again, if the story does not shed light or demonstrate the success of your company strategy, why are you telling it at all? But don’t forget the softer elements of strategy. If your goal is better employee engagement, for instance, a positive story in local media or your trade publication can work wonders as it provides the independent endorsement of what you are saying internally.

Will it compromise better coverage elsewhere?

Before accepting a commission, you might want to check with colleagues that they have not already agreed an exclusive feature with a rival publication. Or, is the publication simply the first one to contact you after the story breaks? If so, you might want to sleep on it in case a more authoritative publication gets in touch tomorrow.

Savvy business people consider all these questions and more when deciding whether to accept the media interview or feature opportunities that their great news stories generate. Much of the thinking may be done almost subconsciously as the call comes in. But we are all busy and do not want to waste time so it’s not a bad idea to give yourself a written checklist and score each interview request to decide which ones to accept.

If you’d like more training on PR opportunities, give us a call at 360. We offer a range of PR training and strategy services.