Make the Most of Your Media Relations

Love her or hate her, Sarah Palin attracts media attention. And it’s apparent from the attention she garnered around the November release of her book, “Going Rogue,” that she’s more polished and prepared for the media spotlight than she was when she was stumping for the McCain ticket.

And regardless of your feelings about the woman and her politics, you have to agree she’s a cautionary tale for the importance of media training. (Remember her horrifically embarrassing interview with Katie Couric? When she couldn’t even name a single newspaper she claimed to read? How she couldn’t manage to at least spit out “The New York Times” is beyond me.)

Far and away, the most important things to do before you face a camera or a microphone are to prepare… and then practice, practice, practice.

Here are B+L’s Top Five Tips for Avoiding Palin-Like Media Missteps:

1. Find out why you are being asked for an interview. (Make sure you’re the appropriate interview subject.) Get answers to at least these questions:
– Which specific topic(s) will be covered?
– What questions could be asked?
– Length of interview? Live or recorded?

2. Identify two or three key points you want to emphasize. Determine what it is you want to convey. View the interview as an opportunity to tell your story.
– Summarize each key point in a sentence or two and commit them to memory.
– Come up with an interesting short story or two to illustrate your message.
– Assume little or no knowledge by the interviewer.

3. Practice.
– Find a colleague who can play the role of reporter.
– Make sure you can give your answers in a way that is genuine and in your own “voice.”
– Ask your colleague to give you feedback. Better yet, videotape the mock interview so you can see where you need to improve.

4. During the interview, stay mindful of your body language. It can speak volumes.
– Smile, be pleasant even if it is a negative issue.
– Maintain good eye contact. Shifty eyes won’t serve you in the court of public opinion.
– Exude confidence but not arrogance; be sincere and enthusiastic.
– Whether standing or sitting, keep your weight centered and don’t fidget.

5. Stay in the game.
– Once you’ve given an adequate answer to a question, stop talking. Too often people dig their own holes.
– If you honestly can’t answer a question — for whatever reason — tell the reporter, “I’ll need to get back to you with that information.” Don’t try to fudge an answer on the spot. THEN MAKE SURE YOU DO GET BACK TO THEM.

Bottom line: A media interview is an opportunity to tell your story and to build a relationship with the media. Your handling of an interview can pay dividends or leave you at a deficit.