Success! You have secured a phone interview for Client X with a writer at a Very Important Magazine. Assuming you've already provided Client X with some basic media training, how do you specifically prepare them for this upcoming phone interview? Take advantage of the following checklist of items to help you with the exciting task at hand, and heed the advice of several industry pros.
Brief your client on the writer & recent articles
You should research the writer's background as well previous articles for any media opportunity, but it's especially important to do so before a phone interview when time is of the essence, and there is no face-to-face meeting to build rapport. Arming your client with knowledge and appreciation for the writer’s work can go a long way to break the ice quickly.
Prepare 3-5 short written talking points
On a phone chat crib notes are a definite must and your client will appreciate being able to look down at the most important information they want to convey while answering questions. Remind your client to have the notes in front of them during the call so that they can weave talking points into the organic conversation.
“As a publicist it is always a great pleasure when our pitches are successfully received, taking the dialogue with a reporter or writer to the next juncture and connecting them with the principal or spokesperson for the business,” says Alle Fister, Principal and Founder of Bollare. Fister advises developing shared talking points in collaboration with your client. “We need to share, listen and learn; garnering feedback from our shared talking points and utilizing these to turn the monologue into a dialogue… which always leads to the most interesting conversation and therefore most robust stories!"
Tape a practice interview
If your client is particularly nervous about speaking to the media, they may appreciate a dry run of likely questions. Also, if they are a soft or fast talker, this will be evident when you play back the recording. Provide honest feedback on the interview (they are paying you for your professional advice after all) and actionable steps for improvement. For instance, if you are trying to promote the launch of a new store for your client who is the founder, but his voice doesn’t carry enough authority on the phone, test how their voice sounds when they stand up during the call or mindfully drop their voice a little lower.
Remind clients about Off The Record
Advise your client to keep the banter friendly during the interview, but remember that anything they say during the conversation may be used in the piece.
“This may sound like a no brainer, but do not disclose to the reporter anything you would not want to be published. ‘Off the record’ isn't always ‘off the record,’” says Lauren Rich, Founder of RICH PR. “One of my first-ever clients made this mistake to a major newspaper and got burned – ever since I don’t let ANY clients get on the phone without reiterating this.”
Amanda Carter, Founder of MODE PR, echoes this sentiment. Her number one piece of advice for clients on phone interviews is to “only say things to the journalist that you would not mind announcing to a room with millions of people.”
Step away from the phone
Surprised? There is a history of publicist's staying on the phone with clients to assist with phone interviews, and help keep the conversation on message. However, if you have properly prepped your client, consider the advice of PR Consultant Raluca State, who believes "some of the best interviews are the ones where interviewees get more candid and feel more at ease." She encourages PR pro's to step away from the phone."Just make sure to go through all the things you do - and don't - want to cover ahead of time."
Last but not least: remind your client (and yourself) to enjoy it
Fister of Bollare says “Your client is sharing their story and journey with someone who is interested in learning more about it- this is a time for their personality shine through. It’s also time to enjoy this milestone as a team!”
Do you have any tips for how to handle phone interviews? Have any success stories to share?
Photo Credit: fulzio rossi