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A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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Be a Media Darling: 5 Tips To a Successful Interview

How to talk to reporters to maximize the positive effects of media attention.

by Heather Gooch (November 7, 2011)

(Editor's note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather's new book, Positive Yarns: Musings on Marketing for Needlearts & Craft Retailers. Heather is Vice President of Gooch & Gooch, a pr and marketing consulting firm. Heather also has extensive experience as a journalist, including interviewing retailers.) The following

You’ve been putting your shop's name out there for years, and it all comes down to this moment: The local newspaper's business reporter wants to stop in for an interview. Is it a dream come true, or the start of your worst nightmare?

It's all in the preparation. While you absolutely want to be yourself, not overly rehearsed, it's important to keep in mind the key points you want to get across to the interviewer each time you open your mouth. It's equally important to know when to not "overshare," as it were -- an off-the-cuff remark that could send your conversation hurtling in a direction in which you'd rather not take it.

What follow are five basic tips I've culled from my professional experience of picking business professionals' brains for print, as well as from other media masters.

1. Learn all you can about their intentions beforehand. Is this article going to be about your business specifically or the industry at large? Is it an overall profile, or are they focusing in on just one thing — your upcoming charity event, for example? Just about any coverage is good coverage, of course, but it will help you decide whether you need to grab your scrapbook to remember things like whether you were founded in 2002 or 2003, or if you need to take a gander at some industry association Web sites to bone up on such factoids like, according to the Craft Yarn Council of America, an estimated 38 million consumers enjoy knitting and crocheting. In addition, find out when they plan to run the piece so that you can be prepared for a little extra attention from new and existing customers alike when it hits the streets (ah, the power of the press!). Of course, also be prepared to be bumped from the 11 p.m. newscast because they had to make room for wall-to-wall coverage of the unexpected snowstorm headed our way.

2. Dress for success. Will the interview include a photo session? Or are you going to be seen as you speak, on TV or online? Even if it's for a no-frills radio interview, clothes can make the man -- and woman. As a helpful article on Media-Training.info thoroughly explains, your best bets include:

Wear solid pastels or bright colors: White washes everyone out; navy or black loses detail; patterns are a no-no.

Choose clothes that fit: You'll be nervous enough as it is. There’s no need to add discomfort to the equation.

Leave off the shiny jewelry: The article recommends keeping your glasses off, too, but professional photographers and videographers can usually work around that with their lighting choices.

Get a good night's sleep beforehand: "Mommy, does knitting really make your eyes get all puffy like that lady on TV?"

3. Assume everything is on the record. I could write a book simply based on the secrets that have been shared with me during the course of interviews over the years. But boy, would I be in trouble. While I try to get my sources back on the record as quickly as possible, so as not to have any gray areas about what is and is not fair game, I can't say that's the reaction of every reporter. If you have a good rapport with the local media (and by all means I strongly suggest you develop one, so that you never find yourself on the wrong end of a reporter's notepad), that's great. But no matter how buddy-buddy you are with them, pay attention to what you're sharing during the course of your conversation. A casual mention of your ex-husband, for example, might be the peg on which the reporter hangs the crux of the story: "Fueled by the independence her divorce gave her, Smith opened her shop in 2003." ("But that had nothing to do with why I opened the shop! And it was in 2002! Arrgh!")

4. Never say "no comment." This is especially true in crisis management situations, when a microphone is shoved in your face after your best employee was just charged with embezzlement, your business just burned to the ground, or some other horrible event has just occurred. You can say "I'll have to look into that and get back to you" or "I'm still trying to collect some more information myself before I am able to comment," or something similar that will buy you some time, but simply sticking to the terse, two-word phrase is going to do your public image no favors. Consultant Karen Friedman has a great article that discusses this particular subject in more detail, and in fact has a wealth of great media relations advice for entrepreneurs at KarenFriedman.com.

5. Remember, you’re the expert! One trick reporters often use is to ask a leading question and then pause, assuming that you'll say something, anything to fill the dead air. (Yes, I use it, too. Don't judge.) Don't be intimidated. If there's a point to make, make it, but don't ramble. You have your key points you want to make, you have the expertise to elaborate on them -- so go for it. The reporter is there to find out information that you have and he or she needs to both interest and enlighten the readers. Seize this opportunity to get some great publicity and share your knowledge about something you love: your business!

(Note: Heather's website is www.positiveyarn.com, where visitors can sign up for her excellent, free monthly newsletter filled with helpful marketing tips. To order the book, click HERE.)



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