Getting an interview request can be exciting, especially if you’re an up-and-coming brand trying to build exposure. When the invite comes in, you feel like you’ve finally caught that big break and your hard work has generated some much-deserved interest. All press is good press, right? Wrong. Not all media should be treated equally, because not all media will be right for your brand.
If a request comes through as a result of your proactive pitching efforts, then more likely than not you will say yes, since you strategically targeted that outlet. But what about those unsolicited interview requests that seem to come out of the blue? When do you say yes, and when do you say no? Here are some important questions you and your team should consider before making a decision.
1. Will the media opportunity help satisfy business goals?
Your PR strategy should directly align with your business goals, which could include anything from generating new business leads, forming new strategic partnerships, getting investor funding, or amplifying a recent company announcement. Could this media opportunity help you achieve those goals? Will it reach your company’s target demographic? If the answer is yes, then you should absolutely consider the interview. But if you don’t see a correlation between your goals and the media opportunity, then think twice before giving up your time.
2. What is the reporter’s (or publication’s) track record? Can you predict what questions they might ask?
Do your research! Venture into the archives and take a close look at the journalist’s previous stories. Assess their style and tone, and the quotes they include from interviewees. Are their stories typically positive, balanced, or negative? Do they tend to write surface-level stories, or do they dig deeper? Anything controversial? Trust is key when deciding to open up to a reporter.
Once you’ve reviewed the reporter’s previous stories, look for some commonalities or themes among them. This will help you gauge what types of questions they may ask. It is perfectly acceptable to request questions from the reporter directly, too (some will provide, others won’t). Determine whether your company is in a position to share the details the reporter might be seeking. Remember that “off the record” does NOT exist, so you want to avoid scenarios where you may fall into the trap of oversharing.
Do keep in mind that just because a reporter asks tough questions doesn’t mean you should decline the interview, especially if they’re from a top-tier outlet. It just means you need to think strategically about how you’d respond and prepare your key messages accordingly.
3. How reputable is the media outlet?
If you receive a media request from a top-tier mainstream outlet – say the New York Times or Associated Press – or perhaps a well-known relevant trade publication, then it’s likely a no-brainer to accept. But what about lesser-known publications? If you haven’t heard of the outlet before, do your research. How wide is their reach? It may or may not be worth the investment of your time.
4. Are you the right person for the interview?
You could receive a request that is completely outside of your wheelhouse and better suited for someone else on your team. Make sure you have a good understanding of the reporter’s intent for the interview and the topics they want to cover to determine whether you have the right expertise and insight for a fruitful discussion.
Now that you’re equipped to make a decision on whether to accept or decline a media interview request, it’s time to respond and prepare! If you decide to say yes to a media request, be sure to develop your top three to five key messages that you want to convey. Additionally, it never hurts to team up with a PR pro or a media trainer to sharpen up on best practices for engaging with reporters.
If you decide the opportunity is not right, then decline the interview the right way. PR is all about relationship-building, so you don’t want to burn a bridge! Here’s our advice:
Be appreciative of the request. Use your manners! Even if it’s not the right opportunity, a polite response goes a long way. Your tone could impact whether they consider you for a future story that may be better suited for your brand.
Be honest, but not too detailed about why you’re declining. For example, if you’re declining because the reporter has a track record of writing controversial stories, then you don’t need to provide that level of detail. Instead, just let them know that now is not the right time, as your company is not in a position to answer the kind of questions that the reporter is looking for. Again, be appreciative of the request.
If appropriate and available, redirect them to another source (with approval, of course). This shows that even though you’re not the right person for the interview, you still want the reporter to succeed.
Express your interest in future queries. Just because this particular request may not be appropriate, doesn’t mean you don’t want to connect with the reporter in the future. Use this response as a way to keep the lines of communication open.
The more easily people can find you, the more media requests you’ll get. LinkedIn can bring tons of visibility to you and your company. Download our free eBook to learn how to put your best LinkedIn foot forward.
About the Author
Marketing Manager and Copywriter Emily Valeo is a creative storyteller specialized in public relations, copywriting, and project management. With five years of experience working with both large and small businesses, Emily has a passion for helping clients succeed through her close attention to detail, strong work ethic, and creative writing skills. Emily graduated from Lafayette College with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Women’s & Gender Studies, and holds a Master’s in Marketing Management from Durham University in the UK.
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