Founder & CEO, PR Expert
Even if you are used to talking about your company, always practice interviewing before game time.
Do not fill silences. If a reporter asks you a question, answer it and then stop talking.
Q=A+1. Always speak directly to the question, & then add in what you really want to talk about.
Lesson: Early Stage PR with Julie Crabill
Step #6 Q=A+1: Acing interviews
When you finally do get that meeting with a journalist, whether somebody makes the introduction for you, they're in a stage where they're ready to hear about what you have to say. It's not just a casual thing; they want to know what your company is doing and you're ready to tell them the story.
I think making sure that you've practiced is key. Most people talk about their companies day in and day out so they think, "Why should I practice? I know how to talk about this." But I think having somebody who can act as a sounding board for you and play that fake journalist role is really, really helpful. So have them ask you the tough questions. Have them get really aggressive at one point. Have them play the journalist who's taking a really long time writing notes so you can feel all those experiences and be ready for them.
Some of the key tips to keep in mind are don't fill empty space. If a journalist asks a question, answer it and stop talking. If they don't ask another question and they're silent, just wait. They'll ask a question eventually. If it gets uncomfortable, how long it's been silent then say, "Does that answer your question? Can I give you anything else on that?" but don't fall into that common trap of saying more than you need to say because almost always it will bite you in the ass.
I'm not saying that reporters are always looking for you to say too much, but if you're going to go down that path and say something that you're going to regret, sure they're going to let you say it. They're not going to stop you.
Another good tip that I like to tell people is, "Think of it as Q=A=+1. So when somebody asks you a question, you absolutely have to give them that answer; that's the A. But if you just do Q=A, it's a very Ping-Pong, you ask, I answer, you ask I answer. It's not conversational. Make sure you add that plus 1, which is the thing that you want to get across, the thing that you want to say either about the market, or about your company, or about your product, or about the story of what's going on over all and how you fit into it. Get that plus 1 into there.
We've all seen interviews with people who just give the plus 1, and they don't answer the question. They’re awkward. You're like, "Hey! Are you even listening to what I'm asking you? You're just saying what you came to say. You're kind of like a talking head messaging robot.” So just make sure it's Q=A+1. The A is the most important part. You'll never get an interview with that person again if you don't actually answer their questions, but make sure you insert as much of your message and story as you can when you get the opportunity.
Once your story goes out there, you need to look for ways to engage in the conversation that happens around that story. So if you're reading an article and you see a bunch of comments coming in on that article, look for ways that you can engage without becoming defensive. So, there are certain publications and outlets that are known for people trolling and saying negative things, TechCrunch for example. Sometimes I feel for the TechCrunch reporters that have to deal with some of the idiocy that comes out in the comments. So I would avoid engaging in conversation with people who are just clearly just trying to be combative and being jerks and clearly have no value to add to the conversation. If somebody says something that is inaccurate, if somebody comes out and they're not one of those people, but they really are confused and they ask a genuine question or they ding you on something that is not actually something that your company does or is planning to do, engage in the conversation naturally. Say who you are. Don't try to hide behind something. Don't try to give a comment as if you're a user when really you're the CEO or one of the founders, but try to correct them in a nice way. “Thanks so much for your input. We actually are doing that," or, "We actually already do the thing that you're asking us for."
If somebody says, "I wish you guys would do X. I wish you were on Android," or whatever it might be, be mindful about not saying too much. You want to say, "Hey, we've heard that a lot, it's definitely something we're looking at or we’re working on it." You maybe don't want to go so far as to say, "We'll launch on Android within 45 days." Because then, in two weeks when you want to start talking to media about the fact that you're launching on Android, they see that comment and they say, "Oh, you already gave this up. This is not news anymore."
So, you're just making sure that you're addressing the concerns and answering the community without giving specifics that might later screw you because you're giving up your own news.