When a company is making a high profile announcement, one of the things a good public relations team will stress is the need for thoughtful preparation. Creating key messages and talking points, having important facts on hand, a well crafted press release, and roles for spokespeople are just some of the things that should be worked on well in advance. This holds true for other significant coverage as well, such as a company profile or executive Q&A.

However, the need for preparation can sometimes wane when it comes to interviews that are viewed as minor opportunities or when a reporter just wants a “quick quote,” or when there is a solid spokesperson that has long experience speaking with media. Don’t fall into this trap. While you may not need to spend the hours of discussion and collaboration required for a major announcement, every media interaction requires some preparation. Here are just a few reasons why this is true:

  1. Past Performance is Not Necessarily Indicative of Future Results

Even when you know a reporter well, they can surprise you. Their assignments and approach can change over time. Looking at their recent writing and having a conversation to know their current thinking on the story is a best practice.

  1. Memory is Imperfect 

The best interviews mimic a real conversation. This is dangerous because a spokesperson can get into the flow and forget that this is not a conversation, and start going off message or veer off into sensitive areas that they should not be discussing. Reviewing current issues and “red flags” with the spokesperson in advance can help ensure an interview that is productive and doesn’t cause problems down the road.

  1. Have a Reason to Speak 

Most important is for the spokesperson to know why they are doing the interview. Having the ability to comment is not a great reason to talk to a reporter. Having a relevant message to deliver is. Spending some time talking through how the company wants to be positioned in relation to the issue is critical for the media opportunity to deliver value.

Whether it’s a 30 minute conference call a week ahead or a brief discussion 10 minutes before the interview, treating each media interaction as an important one will help ensure that time talking to reporters is time well spent.

Tom Faust

Photo via Flickr account Oscar Rethwill