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Old 16th May 2006, 09:56 AM   #1

Join Date: May 2006
Location: South Bend, IN
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Default How do I prepare for a newspaper interview

Have an opportunity to be interviewed and have the article appear in a local business weekly paper. I would like the interview to focus on two things.
1. The fact that I develop custom software solutions for area businesses, primarily order entry / inventory control systems.
2. The fact that I have a program that I market on my web site that allows businesses and individuals to create , print and mail their own promotional pieces, such as postcards, brochures, newsletters and flyers.

I realize that they are looking for a story while I'm looking for exposure.
I've been told I better be prepared but I'm not certain how to prepare.

Any one care to share their experience or offer some pointers?

Thanks for your time,

www.customprogramsolutions.com - Software that's actually easy to use
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Old 16th May 2006, 10:36 AM   #2

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Might sound strange, but you need to get out of your box. You need to converse in a manner that the person you are talking to has no familiarity. My advice, find a friend or family member who is completely unfamiliar with what you do. Ask them to take some time talking to you about what you do. Now get conversing on a real basic, generic, plain english manner that tells your story and the basics of what you do. Keep it simple, don't feature puke!

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Old 16th May 2006, 11:14 AM   #3

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>>don't feature puke!>>

you just took away the stuff I'm good at!

Seriously, I hope it's no more complicated than that. I'll have to practice like you say. Good news is I've been told I'm trainable.

Take care,

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Old 18th May 2006, 07:48 AM   #4
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Good luck! The first one is the hardest and you'll definitely learn some lessons. I served as Superintendent of Public Affairs for an Air Force Wing for a time and there is allot to learn about effective interviewing.

A few key things...

Know your reporter! Read what they have written in the past, see what they have "done to" others who have been interviewed. This may help you decide if you are going to grant the interview at all.

Know your topic. Many times the reporter will simply say, can I interview you? Ask them what the editorial topic is. Helping the reporter get the good stuff will get you quoted more often. Also, knowing in advance will help you put your answers into context so you can inject your message gracefully.

Don't forget: the entire process is an interview. From the time you greet the reporter to the time you finish. The fact that the reporter as already identified themselves, everything is on the record even if you ask not to be. This includes the inevitable follow up questions on the phone. It's typical for a reporter to submit their story and be asked to clarify by the managing editor. They'll call and pull a Colombo on you... "Oh, one more thing... " Many times, that's the most important question and if you are unprepared to answer, simply ask if you can call back in a few minutes.

Reporters are people too. They have a job to do and would like to get done quickly. Being prepared with good information they can use will be valuable to them. Be as brief as possible especially in areas you would like to avoid. Expound on areas that will help your image and business. Be kind, helpful and respectful but don't forget, they are going to write and people will read the results of your encounter.

Whew... too long. Sorry.

Good luck... relax and have fun with it.

David Francis | Bowling Green KY USA | SoKy Local Business
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Old 18th May 2006, 11:51 AM   #5
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I can't say I've been interviewed by a reporter about my business, but in other situations where I have been interviewed I've always prepared by thinking what questions the interviewer might ask and think about how I would respond to that question.

It can help to keep you being thrown off guard with a question you weren't expecting. Often I've been asked the exact (or very similar) questions that I had thought.

Knowing the reporter is also good. It can give you a better feel for the kinds of questions he or she might ask.

Since there are obviously things you want to say that you may not get asked about keep them in your mind during the interview and when there's an opportunity bring them up. Don't necessarily force the information, but look for ways where you can bring something up and perhaps direct the question where you'd like to see it go.

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Old 18th May 2006, 03:20 PM   #6
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Shoot straight from the hip.........don't get too caught up in the interview process.

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Old 18th May 2006, 11:02 PM   #7
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Be honest in everything you say. Probably obvious, but in the thick of an interview you can be tempted to say things you probably shouldn't.

As Logan said, don't overdose on features. The rule of copywriting applies to what you're doing, too -- focus on benefits, not features. Explain not what your product/service does (how it works), but how it benefits the user. Does it save time? Does it save money? What's the benefit? Figure out a way to explain without it sounding like a commercial.

And yes, if you can, contact the reporter and find out what his/her goals are for the interview -- what does s/he hope to focus on. Just mention that you'd like to be as prepared as possible so you don't end up wasting his/her time.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

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Old 19th May 2006, 05:38 AM   #8

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Default Thanks to everyone for the tips!

Found that I wanted to print out all of these answers. Did the cut and paste thing to wordpad so I can read these several times and put my thoughts together.
The ball is in my court on this interview thing and I'm dragging my feet. Your tips will help me get my "stuff together". Because my primary business is custom programming for local businesses this interview is important. Thus the questions.

Thanks again,

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Old 5th June 2006, 02:55 PM   #9
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Hi, may be a bit late, sorry for that.

I always suggest to people that they write down the 5 key points of what they want to get across and keep these in mind for every question.

The key thing is that people rarely listen to the question, they are only bothered about the answer... so try to use things that are called "bridging points" in the UK.

These are the points in your reply where you switch the question to an answer that contains then info you want to get across.

Typical media bridging points include phrases like, "That is a good question and I think what this leads to is <insert your chosen positive point>.

Also, don't be afraid to say if you disagree with a question, and again you can use this as a bridging point to lead you into a positive area.

Hope this helps.

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Old 7th June 2006, 03:11 PM   #10

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As a business writer, myself, allow me to add a few things:

One very good point was knowing your reporter. The personality of every reporter is different. Take me, for instance, I am very laid back, conversational and I like to shoot my questions from the hip. Other will show up with a list of questionbs, will become annoyed if the conversation goes off course and will trap you if they think something stinks.

"Shooting from the hip" can be good. But be sure that it is informed. If you don't feel comfortable answering a question because you're not sure you know the answer, ask if you can double check the information and answer the question later. Reporters want accurate sources.

Don't push your agenda, slide it in. If you are stressing to get in points, the reporter - even a laid back one like myself - is going to get irritated. Remember, we have the highest level of editorial discretion in this process. Good reporters will recognize when someone is trying to use them to fulfill their agenda. Not only will that portion of the interview be ignored, your shot at another chance with that reporter will be gone.

Do prepare. Prepare like you were making a business pitch to the most important client you have ever had. Know your stuff inside and out.

I saw someone else mention about not going "off the record." Unless you know the reporter and have extablished a level of trust - don't do it. Even if you say it's off the record, some reporters will run with it. I can't stress that enough. Believe me, this industry is filled with a bunch of people looking to make names for themselves.

Don't be nervous. Something else I can't stress enough. After all, you're going to be talking about your business and line of work. That is a subject you should be enthusiastic about and enjoy discussing. Keep in mind, while there are a few bad seeds, the majority of reporters aren't out to get you - they're out to get a great story.

Be willing to share about yourself - more than just your business life. Reporters - especially business writers - are always looking for a way to humanize their stories. Writing about numbers and technical jargon is boring. And reading stories about numbers and technical jargon is boring. People are interesting. Don't be afraid to share a little about yourself.

One final thing, look at this as an opportunity to establish yourself as an expert. One thing writers are always seeking is someone who can speak intelligently on certain topics and add opinions that are informed and well developed. Most importantly, they're looking for someone who can do those things and will return a phone call at some point over the course of a few hours - not a few days. When the interview ends, hand the reporter your card and let him or her know that if in the future they are looking for someone who can comment on such topics, they can give you a call. This can go a long way in building "top-of-mind" recognition for your business.

Good luck!

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