Photo from Unsplash

What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know Before They Talk to the Press

Photo from Unsplash
Share the

The economics of many social enterprises can be oversimplified into the following: The inherent good of the mission increases their cost of goods (because they employ marginalized talent, reach underserved customers, or pursue some other noble end that will erode margins); and, if they’re lucky, that same goodness reduces marketing costs (by attracting editorial coverage, social sharing, or some other amplifier), thus canceling out the higher costs so that they can pay the bills.

So if you’re working in this arena, leveraging your mission to attract attention isn’t just good for you; it’s critical to your survival.

Attracting media attention isn’t just good for you; it’s critical to your survival. Tweet This Quote

Few things can help accomplish that like a great media interview. If you were born speaking in sound bites or had the luxury of getting formal media training, stop reading. For everyone else, there’s one sure way to make sure you make the most of a media interview, and it can be summed up in one word: “practice.”

In case you don’t have the time or money for a professional media coach to tell you what you should practice, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • Decide what two or three key message points you want to make, and stick to them no matter what—regardless of what questions are asked
  • Front load your messages and be succinct, because you never know how much time you’ll get. The modern sound bite is only six seconds.
  • Show your passion for what you’re doing. Your energy, more than your words, will draw the audience in.
  • Know the reporters’ style and interests. Research them as they would research you.
  • Practice, practice, practice, practice. And practice.

To the first point, use bridging statements to get back to your message points as quickly as possible. Examples of these:

  • “I think the question we really ought to ask is…”
  • “That’s a good point, but I think your audience would be interested in knowing that…”
  • “That’s not my area of expertise, but what I can tell you is…”
  • “Let me put it in perspective.”

To the last point, when you practice, find someone to play the reporter role and run through a mock interview. Do that at least twice, and record each session so your most demanding critic (you) can listen and/or watch and improve your performance with every session.

Rajesh Anandan

About the author

Rajesh Anandan is SVP of Strategic Partnerships and UNICEF Ventures at UNICEF USA. He is also founder of ULTRA, a company that provides technology services by employing teams...

Rajesh Anandan has written 8 articles for UNREASONABLE.is

  • Andrew

    To the first point, use bridging statements to get back to your message points as quickly as possible.. hmmm

  • surffox

    Like many things in life, practice makes perfect. Even in live situations, if you have done your preparation, you can handle most situations with a positive response and redirect to stay on point.

  • Cameron Sides

    Practice does make perfect. To the point of “show your passion”, there is no better way in sales than showing why you believe in a certain product, because if you believe in it so will the consumer.

  • Jresnic1

    Knowing how to talk to press is a skill that is not focused on as much as it should be. In the time that we live in, most people find out their information from the news or social media. Knowing how to portray your social enterprise for the press pays off many times over in the long run.

  • Bangyan Zhang

    I do love this sentence. “Show your passion for what you’re doing. Your energy, more than your words, will draw the audience in” My father usually told me this meaning as well. It’s educational. Show more passion in action rather than words. It is epigram for me and for entrepreneurs I think.

  • MajdaNaf

    I agree with most of the above. Having had some experience talking to different media outlet about my project, I would advise you to also consider the following:
    – don’t assume that the reporter is knowledgeable about your field or completely buys into your idea. You spend most of your time with people that understand your project, and have the same goals and motivation as you, but don’t forget to be as comprehensive as possible when explaining what is it that you do. Explain as if you were talking to a 5 year old.
    – try to get as much information about why the reporter is doing the article/interview about your startup. Is it part of a broader article (say, about innovation, or environment or…)? It is solely focused on your company? If you can figure out what the reporter is *truly* looking for, you can best prepare for it. So don’t hesitate to ask questions and let the reporter be crystal clear about her objectives.
    – reiterating what the author said in the article, I can’t emphasize how important preparation is! As the saying goes “if you’re not over-prepared, you’re under-prepared”. One thing I would add to that, is to try to meet with your team before a media appearance. Maybe you missed something that needs to be conveyed and your team will bring that to your attention. It would also allow you to deliver a unified and representative message.

  • abott88

    So true! I’ve only rarely had an experience with the media where the reporter seemed to know much about the mission of our organization or the field. If you come in prepared to share your mission like you would to others in your field, you’re not going to be understood. And the suggestion of trying to learn what angle the reporter is taking is something I’ll try to remember from now on! Great suggestions!

  • JeremyWahl

    knowing how to talk in a press conference is not an easy skill. there can be some people are trying to put words in your mouth to make headlines, and then there are people trying to get the truth. I do believe actions speak louder than words. If you are energetic and passionate in what you are talking about, people will be more interested in hearing what you are talking about. As in anything, practice does make perfect.

  • Kaylee Raucci

    I don’t believe practice makes perfect I believe practice keeps you average. You can always improve and if you’re just practicing the same thing over and over you’ll never improve. Sometimes even when you practice all the time you still mess up, so there’s no guarentees with “practice makes perfect”, but practicing does help. Other than this I agree with thearticle. Keeping is short and sweet is key, and when you are stumped with something using bridging statements is a smart thing to do. It’s a way to get them thinking through your eyes and not just how they see it.

  • Brad Vogel

    Truthfully, I don’t think talking to the press is anything to practice for. Most of the time, the press finds ways to spin what we say to “create a story” when there’s not even one to be made.

    One of the biggest issues any business will face now is social media. So many people on social media think they are experts and regardless of what you say, someone is going to convince others that you said something else.

    But that’s on us as a society for believing everything the media tells us.

  • thompsonjm99

    Interesting blog! I don’t think that talking to the press should be as important as it has become. Anything that someone says can be twisted and manipulated in some way that can make the person look better or worse. Press leads to social media which leads to consequences because our society has become heavily dependent on social media. Do you think that press should be avoided at all costs?

  • knapprl17

    This is very helpful. I have never talked to the press but I believe that these tips will be useful for interviews to. It is important to be passionate about what your interviewing for, you need to research the company, and practice. I am going to use these tips for the interviews I have coming up.

  • d_millyy

    Thank you for this article it can be actually very helpful, people tend to choke up or ramble when they’re asked questions especially in front of the media. Therefore, if you have a plan then you can get your point across and that can help with your publicity. The question I have is if you’re has to question you don’t want to answer is it better to just answer it slightly or tell them you’re not answering that question?

  • Mitch Sween

    Thank you for this article. These might be good things to practice not only profession interview but for job interview or any other professional setting.