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Tips for Training Thought Leaders to Think Beyond the Interview 1

Media training typically focuses on nailing the interview. Usually the advice is to deliver key messages and avoid topic land mines.  Often missing is an understanding of the newsroom and the reporter’s POV.

As you know, some newsrooms are shrinking. Reporters often churn out multiple stories daily. Stories are cut faster than you can say “new Trump tweet.”

Understanding reporters’ challenges increases your chance of gaining coverage. It also can lead to a strong relationship with journalists.

With that, here are some tips for PR pros as they prepare thought leaders for life after the interview.

Interviews and Guaranteed Coverage

The interview went well, but your executive wasn’t quoted. Sometimes good interviews fail to gain coverage. Publications pull articles all the time.  Editors cut quotes, anything can happen.

If an interview went well, spokespeople shouldn’t get hung up on why their comments weren’t used.  Instead, they should see the interview as the start or continuation of a long-term relationship. Spokespeople should act graciously. They can compliment the article where appropriate. In addition, they should make it clear they remain willing to help.  The reporter will remember your company was helpful. She may even refer you to colleagues.

Quotes May Not Reflect the Interview

Was your spokesperson’s quote three words long? Quotes that make it into the article do not necessarily reflect the depth or quality of the interview. Spokespeople should prepare for this. Reporters often need sound bites that fit their narrative or provide a smooth transition. The sound bite might be very short. While disappointing, it’s better than no mention.

Quote Checks = Fact Checks

When a reporter shares quotes ahead of publishing, spokespeople should never attempt to rewrite them. Instead, they should think of this as a courtesy fact check. Make factual corrections, nothing else.

Same goes for any feedback on a published article. It’s not our job as PR pros or sources to critique a reporter’s writing style. If something is factually inaccurate, it’s okay to speak up, as long as there is no attempt to make stylistic changes.

Always Help

Was someone else better suited for the reporter’s questions? Let spokespeople know it’s okay to refer reporters to other executives. Ideally this other executive also is at your company.

If not, that’s okay too. A story requires multiple sources. Referring reporters to a customer, a co-worker, or an industry connection could make the difference between a story running or getting it cut.

Coverage Takes Time

In the digital economy we’ve grown accustomed to instant gratification. Quality work takes time. Unless the interview pertains to breaking news, a quote can take weeks before it runs. Trend articles often require multiple sources, studies, and other elements. These can take even longer before they go live. Make this clear to thought leaders. Remind them they may even have to jump back on the phone with a reporter several times.

Practicing empathy greatly improves an executive’s chances of getting quoted. When they are quoted, make sure they know how to amplify that coverage. Hoping a client or prospect will stumble upon the article won’t do much good.

Make certain thought leaders know how to share the article on social media. In addition, they should have their brand’s marketers distribute the article to a targeted audience via email or other platforms.

Kristina Corso is a communications specialist at Hot Paper Lantern 

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