Do you know who your audience is?
When you do an interview with a journalist, you might think the answer to that question is fairly simple.
The journalist is merely a vessel, a mouthpiece, a conduit. And the questions they ask will be determined by the publication or programme they work for.
Through him or her, you are talking to a potentially far wider audience. This might be the general public, but it may be a very specific grouping, who read, watch or listen to that particular media outlet.
In all your interviews, you need to tailor what you say to which particular audience you want to reach.
- Are you a professional body hoping to influence government policy or demonstrate your expertise?
- Are you a charity hoping to raise funds or recruit more volunteers?
- Are you trying to change public perceptions about your industry or repair a damaged reputation?
- Or are you simply trying to sell something?
Whatever your aim, in targeting your audience, you need to adjust your language and keep messages accordingly.
For example, if you want to enhance your reputation or increase your influence, you might use phrases such as:
‘What we recommend is …’
‘In our meetings with government …’
‘When we produced our most recent report/white paper into x …’
‘What our membership are telling us is …’
The importance of preparation
However it’s not quite as simple as just targeting your audience and tailoring your message to them to the exclusion of all else.
If you do that, you risk offending other audiences which are important to you.
So, if you are interviewed about a government initiative about which you have doubts, and you give a fair and frank response to questions about your views, it could play well with other stakeholders, but it could also have a long-lasting impact on your relationship with government. And therefore, on your ability to influence said government initiative.
I’m not suggesting you should always sit on the fence. If you do that, no journalist will ever want to interview you.
I’m also not suggesting you should lie about your views– that would be disastrous and not something we would ever advocate.
What I am recommending is that:
- You think carefully in advance about how you are going to frame your answers to those tricky questions.
- You exercise judgement and diplomacy in what you say.
- You ensure that what you say is constructive
- If necessary, you avoid giving a direct answer.
All of which takes preparation.
Download: our free interview preparation checklist
Before you go into an interview – make sure you are very clear about what your organisation’s key messages are and who they are aimed at. Make sure you know what questions are likely to come up, and that you know how to answer each one in a way which enables you to deliver said key messages.
Media training will help you learn how to respond to tricky questions, using a technique called bridging, where you acknowledge the question answered then ‘bridge’ to one of your key messages.
Read more: Bridging techniques
If your spokespeople would benefit from some practice interviews or media training, then just give us a call on 020 8332 6200 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.