There are three main modes of engagement with the media that PR teams will tend to use: press releases, written articles, and interviews.
Each comes with its own advantages and challenges, and may be appropriate in different contexts. The recognition of this is vital for extracting the most value from your PR team’s work, and maximising the benefits offered by each opportunity.
Below we focus on interviews only, examining the characteristics of various interview types – embracing a post-pandemic update.
It’s an interview, but what kind?
1. Phone/Zoom interview
Phone interviews have traditionally been the most common format thanks to their focused convenience at either end of the line. Zoom and other video conference platforms have also muscled into this space over the past 18 months and are most likely here to stay.
The clear potential benefit of a video call is the opportunity to employ body language and facial expression to make your points in a more engaging way. That aside, your approach to phone and video interviews should be broadly the same.
Your PR team will likely set up and chair these calls, though in the interests of a flowing conversation, you should expect them to be largely silent following introductions. However, if things take an inadvisable turn, they will be on hand to help steer the interview in the right direction, or simply buy you some thinking time, as well as to wrap up and confirm next steps as the conversation is finishing.
The typical output from these interviews will be in written format, from a full write-up of the Q&A to the inclusion of a single quote within a much wider article. Your PR team will have informed you of the likely output prior to interview, but you should nevertheless consider all options to be on the table at the time of interview!
These interviews will often be recorded and transcribed for ease of editing. It’s therefore possible, though rare, that the content will be repurposed for other uses, for example as podcast content. If that’s the case, you should be informed in advance.
2. Broadcast interview
This category covers any interview which is to be published in audio format, rather than transcribed and printed. This could be live on radio or TV, or recorded for subsequent broadcast, which now includes digital platforms such as podcasts. Again, given our ‘new normal’, these can likely take place on Zoom too.
Either way, the stakes are slightly higher here; whereas other interview formats may offer you a degree of leniency in the event if a slip up, a broadcast interview offers little or no chance of putting the proverbial cat, once released, back in the bag.
If unsure, talk to your PR team about what to wear, and how to use body language and gestures to your advantage.
But most importantly, talk to your team about the audience involved, the way in which they engage with the content, and the types of message that will work for you in this format.
The chances are you’ll be more used to phone/zoom interviews than broadcast interviews. This may have helped you to build up your confidence and hone your interview skills. But don’t confuse the two formats. A message that works perfectly in written form may not work so well on the air waves without some careful repackaging.
3. In-person interview
You may recall a time when it was commonplace to spend a large portion of your working day meeting people face to face!
When it comes to building relationships with journalists, there’s no substitute for the in-person interview. You’ll typically enjoy more time to convey your points and less distraction from the matter in hand.
The interview may take place at your office, on the journalist’s home turf, over a coffee or lunch, or most likely on the fringes of an industry gathering or conference as shows begin to resurface.
The location should have little impact on your preparation, and ideally your PR team will have travelled to support you during the interview. But don’t lose sight of your surroundings and how they may dictate proceedings on the day. For example, an interview at an industry conference may touch upon some of the themes aired on stage, whereas an interview at your office is likely to give you the opportunity to give the journalist a quick pen portrait of your organisation.
Preparation is key for all interviews but if meeting in person, do invest extra time in reading up on the person you’re meeting, their interests and their work. After all, relationships are a two-way street!
4. Written interview
Now and again, if diaries simply don’t allow another format, you may be asked to respond to interview questions in writing. In this case, the journalist will likely send a set of questions to your PR team. The team will then work with you to compose answers, and send them back for publication.
The written interview may give you little opportunity to strike a relationship, or to delve in any great depth into either your organisation or its views, but don’t let that obscure the potential advantages on offer.
Approached in the right manner, the written interview gives you complete control. Your PR team, alive to the increased risk of misunderstanding or comments being used out of context, will put in the legwork before and after the questions are answered. Your focus should be solely on the rare chance to plan, and edit, your responses as they’ll appear in print.