How to handle media interviews

How to handle media interviews as cybersecurity professionals

A guide for cybersecurity professionals

Establishing your presence in the media takes time and effort. There are more opportunities than ever before to appear in interviews on TV, online, podcasts, social media channels and radio. The media landscape has exploded. People expect to see and hear from companies and experts now, therefore, it’s never been more important to have a strong personal brand – a face behind the company.

So, where do you start in preparing for your next media interview?

Media interview preparation

The first thing is to determine your tone of voice and messaging. Having this carefully laid out in advance will ensure that you tackle the key points when navigating your way through a journalist’s questions.

As a security company operating in a crowded market, the first step is getting the tone of voice and your key messages right. Ensure that both are delivered clearly in the interview.

For example, the majority of security companies use messaging designed to steer organisations – or consumers – away from danger with warnings. Reporters will always be interested in this story, so it’s wise to be prepared to discuss the latest details of vulnerabilities and statistics on attacks.

Comment in your way

However, other companies prefer to provide a more supportive role. They may avoid any negative language around security risks and instead focus on providing tips. The message here relies on negating worries and equipping businesses and consumers with the confidence to tackle the security challenges they face.

Finding your own unique take on the security landscape comes down to knowing your target audience and the particular challenges they’re facing. Then, it’s a case of having your messaging nailed and being able to deliver it when interviewed.

This is where media training comes in.

The role of media training

It sounds obvious but you can never be too prepared when it comes to media interviews. You rarely get another shot at getting the same interview right, or the chance to correct mistakes, and this is the case with a print interview as well as radio or television.

That being said, most journalists aren’t there to trip you up – they need their story just as much as you need the exposure.

A media training session can be worth its weight in gold when you’re in the hot seat – or on the video screen – of your target media outlet.

Your media trainer will tailor the session for your audience and target news outlets. They’ll know exactly what comprises a successful interview.

Their role is to interview you as a journalist would to get their story. They’ll follow a similar line of questioning that your target publication would take.

They may create a fake press release to give the interview a focus and in most cases, it will feel like a normal conversation. However, they may also throw in the odd curve ball to see how you’ll react.

Next comes the feedback. They’ll feedback on your responses and to what extent you had control of the conversation, how many key points you were able to include any areas you went wrong. They will then offer tips and advice, such as the ones outlined below.

Top tips on media interviews

For in-person interviews, maintain eye contact throughout. Remember that your body language also speaks volumes in an interview scenario, so keep it neutral and relaxed. Hand gestures are usually a great way to keep animated and engage your audience.

Keep your key message front of mind and mentally tick off all of the important points as you run through the interview with the reporter.

Avoid jargon and clearly explain why what you’re saying is relevant to your audience. Provide real-world examples and keep your answers short, ideally to three points.

Remember that not everyone understands your product, service or market as well as you. You should be able to translate complex technical information – even for a reporter at a trade media outlet.

Summarise what your interviewer has asked you by repeating the question to make sure that you have answered it fully.

Add credibility by providing context to your responses; for example, can you relate the challenges that you’re seeing to what’s going on elsewhere in the world? Can you discuss what sectors, in particular, are struggling with a specific problem to make it relevant to a larger audience? Can you comment on a recent article written by that publication and talk about why your business is relevant?

Don’t go on record unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re able to. Make sure confidential information remains confidential. There is no such thing as off the record.

Practice, practice, practice – it will be time well spent. Speak to the reporter in your mirror, or record yourself on your phone. Work on speaking confidently on your topic area and delivering your point in an interesting way.

Being friendly, receptive and knowledgeable are key traits of a good spokesperson.

Handling crisis comms media interviews

When it comes to crisis communications, there are a few golden rules.

Ensure that the correct person comments on behalf of the company. Usually, it is appropriate for the business owner to respond to any interview requests.

Have all of the current information to hand before speaking to reporters.

If there is a fault, admit where you have gone wrong and how the business is going to respond.

Aim to answer every question. But if it’s an evolving situation, don’t be afraid to admit that you have limited knowledge at the time of questioning.

Credibility is key in crisis comms, so focus on one key point at a time and make a note of anything further that required a response.

Making yourself a key contact for reporters

If you follow these tips and advice, you’ll soon be ready for your next media interview, whether that’s with a radio station, a national newspaper, trade publication or podcast.

Where your PR agency comes in

Media interview preparation is important. Your PR agency can assist you by taking all of the relevant information about the interview, reporter and research about the media outlet and any relevant articles they’ve written before. Your PR agency will be there to facilitate your interview and make a note of any important points discussed and follow-up actions. This means you can focus on the interview at hand.

More advice

For more advice on unpicking your key message, building your story for journalists, getting your story out there or help with a media interview please contact us at [email protected]