Connecting the dots between customers, colleagues and community
Varga & Associates, Inc. Communication Mari Pat's Missive Volume 6
June 2010
MP new head shot Greetings Customers, Colleagues and Community Members,

Good press is a blessing.  Bad press a curse.  This month's issue is dedicated to providing you with reminders and recommendations on how to win over the media by delivering a great interview with messages that are memorable.

Your ability to manage your external communication with polish and presence
is priceless.  Combining a strategic approach with confident delivery will help
you garner good press and build effective relationships with the media.

Here's to good copy and best wishes for your summer!

Mari Pat Varga
See Your Story from the Media's P.O.V.
A snapshot of what makes a news-worthy story

Before you
approach the media with your story be sure that you have something important to say and you know how to say it well.

Consider how your story aligns with what is typically considered "news."  Popular categories include the economy, finance, jobs, celebrities, quarterly results, crime, business breakthroughs, local heroes, politics and disasters.  In addition, any story where the underdog wins or a story that describes the best or the brightest, the youngest or the oldest may have a chance of coverage.  Other possibilities, but harder to sell, are press conferences, charity events, grand openings, product launches or new hire announcements.  When analyzing your story for its "newsworthiness" remember that media coverage is not intended to be a promotional brochure for your company or cause.  You'll need to search for the "angle" by which to pitch the story and generate interest. 

Building relationships with reporters is key to garnering coverage.  Get to know them first, whenever possible.  Invite them to lunch for an off-the-record meeting.  Make yourself available as an "expert" who they might tap into from time to time for comment.

When you are ready to pitch your story, don't push.  Reporters have demanding schedules.  They want the story and want to make their deadlines. If you can help them accomplish their goals while meeting your message objectives you've struck a win-win balance.

When attempting to secure press - go for quality, not quantity.  Know your customers and what they read and zero in on those publications.  Hiring a public relations partner can be of tremendous value to help you shape your story, find the right reporter and channels.

Beyond the possibility of getting good press, the entire process of securing good media coverage helps you to continually define and refine your company's story and shape your public image.

Anticipate the Questions, Develop Memorable Answers
Managing Q & A well is the secret to a great interview.

The best way to prepare for a strong interview is to identify "delightful" and "dreaded" questions and craft clear and compelling responses to each.  Delightful questions are the ones you'd love to answer if only asked and dreaded questions are the challenging ones that often give you trouble. 

Make two columns and list them all.  If you get stuck, ask colleagues to supply more.  Write down your responses to each and rigorously edit.  When you feel they are tight, do a dry run with a trusted colleague (playing the role of the interviewer) and rehearse your responses.

In addition to this preparation, remember that one of your best interview tools is "bridging."  Bridging leads your interviewer from one place (perhaps negative) to another (where you'd rather be).  Classic bridging statements include:

  • ...Opinions differ, but I believe...
  • ...Even more important is...
  • ...I am familiar with that sentiment, but the real focus should be...
  • That's an interesting question and one I find more valuable to ask is....
Your verbal skill - and the preparation you put in - will keep you in control and able to manage the message effectively.
Have Something to Say
Developing Key Messages that Stick

Prepare well in advance for a  media encounter by developing a strong messaging platform. We work with our clients to fully understand the organization's vision and mission, know who their key stakeholders and influencers are and develop key messages that will appeal to each.  This process helps to establish consistency in tone and content across the organization and thereby helps the messages stick.

You can start today by asking yourself,  "What are the five most important things we could say about our company?" To begin, be ready to describe:
  1. Who You Are
  2. Your Financial Facts
  3. Your Target Markets
  4. Future Plans for Growth or Innovation
  5. What Makes you Unique
For each, back them up with key statistics and factoids along with a story or example to make them come alive. Key messages will serve as the launch pad for every interview you do.

Be Quotable
Make it memorable

We all listen for the unique expression of an idea, a turn of phrase or fresh perspective.  Don't count on those things happening naturally as being "quotable" takes time, thought and practice. 

Complete the following phrases as they relate to your products or services to see if you can communicate your business in new ways:
  • We believe in...
  • We fight for...
  • We are passionate about...
  • We are angry about...
  • We don't care about...
  • Think of us when you need...
  • The risk of not working with us is...
  • We are experts in...
  • What we do better than anyone else is...
In addition, whenever you can bundle your responses in "3's" it helps them stick.  "We believe in sales, service and support."  "Our three guiding principles are preparation, precision and polish."
Learn from the Pros
Learn what works and what doesn't from good interviewers and their guests

I have found that a great way to improve your own interview skills is by listening and watching the pros.  Observe how polished interviewers position their questions and how they follow-up.  Pay attention to how the guests (those being interviewed) respond.  Note what works and what doesn't.

Some well known pros to watch include:
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Charlie Rose
  • Diane Sawyer
  • Bob Simon
Watch "Actor's Studio" on Bravo for a gallery of often riveting interviews by James Lipton.  You can learn a lot from listening to actors describe their process.  Three of my favorite interviews featured Meryl Streep, Mike Myers, Gene Hackman and Jodie Foster.

Notice the rhythm and pacing of interviews where you are engaged.  What techniques can you incorporate?
Make Meaning * Be Memorable * Win Over the Media

At Varga & Associates, Inc. we are committed to helping our clients communicate powerfully and create messaging that connects the dots between their customers, employees, communities, and results.  We provide one-on-one coaching, consulting and training.  We believe in being a thoughtful thinking partner to our clients.
Contact us today if you, your team or your leaders are interested in developing a message platform that tells your story in a memorable way.   Our "Make Meaning * Be Memorable * Win Over the Media" is our newest training program for media excellence.  We'd love to discuss how we can partner for your success.
Thank you for your interest and I trust you've gained a few new tools you can put into practice immediately.  Make your next media interview memorable by telling your organization's story in a compelling and engaging way. 

Mari Pat Varga
Varga & Associates, Inc.