The UK is at the heart of world-class bioscience research, with an increasing number of entrepreneurial, forward-thinking and future-focused people, collaborating to create companies that deliver solutions to some of the major issues facing world health and society today.
With such high stakes, it’s easy for businesses to remain immersed in their discoveries, and fully consumed by the complexities and intricacies involved in the development of their technology. Preparing to speak to the media is often very low on the list of priorities. It’s easy to talk to fellow colleagues and industry peers about what has been found, how the innovations work, and where they might be applied, but it’s not so easy to communicate ‘why’ it matters and channel this to those who should know about it.
For many people in discovery and R&D, speaking with media is not something they ever envisaged themselves doing, let alone considered training for. I mean, how hard can it be? It’s not rocket science (unlike the stuff that’s being tested in the lab), or so many people often think; Surely everyone will want to know about the company and its technology, as the discoveries are amazing! Right?...
Well unfortunately success with the media is not quite as straightforward or as simple as one might imagine…. If you want your stakeholders to be aware of, understand and engage with your business, then you need to demonstrate value. Having media on your side will increase the chances of your story reaching the audiences that matter most. However, take note – preparation is critical, it’s not easy to change a bad first impression or a miscommunication. You won’t (unless you have a particularly good relationship with the journalist), get the opportunity to review and refine an article and nor should you expect to.
Very often, business leaders and executives are apprehensive, sceptical and even nervous to respond to media enquiries, let alone take an impromptu telephone interview. So here are a few top tips to help prepare for and embrace the OPPORTUNITY of a meeting with media:
- Make sure you understand your story (define your key messages and refine how you deliver them)
- Understand ‘who’ you’re speaking to
- Which publication? (who are the readers, what is the circulation/reach?)
- The title/role of the journalist, their style and what they’ve covered in the past
- Be clear on exactly why you are speaking with them (or vice-versa)
- Be accessible (don’t ignore the calls or emails!)
Rocking the interview
- Think soundbites: Less is more – be clear, concise and to the point with your answers
- Start with the end in mind! – Remember, the journalist doesn’t need, nor do they want the full history; they want to know WHY it matters, WHO it affects and HOW it works
- Avoid jargon
- Numbers often result in headings or headlines… If you have a fact that you can support with a number or stat – use it
- Help the journalist’s understanding: Offer anecdotes and examples where possible
- ‘No Comment’ and ‘Off the record’ are not an option
- Be true to your word: Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver
- If faced with a difficult or challenging question, acknowledge, don’t dismiss
- Avoid coming across as judgmental or defensive
- Remember, a lot can be read from your body language!
There are several well-known interview techniques that can be practiced and employed to help you get the most out of every media opportunity. Preparation is vital, knowing your story isn’t enough, delivering it with passion and belief will ensure its heard.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of PR!
“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad,”
– Richard Branson
Written by Maria Patey, Sciad Communications