During a presentation lasting more than one hour, the duo laid out 10 rules for business owners to keep in mind when they receive an interview request from someone in the media. With the proper preparation, Seidel and Grizzle said, an interview can be beneficial for both a business owner and the reporter writing the story.
“‘Tips and tricks’ is too flagrant a way to describe it,” Seidel said of the 10 rules. “These are techniques. Now I come out of the news media. I’m not interested in teaching spin or evasion. They are counter-productive. They don’t help you get your messages across. However, I am interested in teaching you how to respond to your questions but on your terms.”
Seidel and Grizzle own a firm called The Media Trainers, which specializes in training business clients on best practices for interviews. Seidel, according the firm’s handout, has more than 30 years experience in news media. Grizzle has more than 30 years experience on the other side of an interview: he has worked in media relations for corporations and the military.
Both men believe the media is no longer limited to television, radio or print mediums. With the growing strength of social media anyone with an internet connection, they said, is part of the media.
“Today deadlines don’t exist anymore, not with the Internet. All the rules have changed. It’s the Wild West out there. There’s no sheriff out there and anybody who can go online and publish a blog or hit social media and the word goes out, worldwide — immediately. So your need to be ready for routine news, crisis news, has just increased exponentially,” Seidel said.
Grizzle expanded on the idea, saying even close friends should be considered members of the media.
“With the social media explosion of the past five years, we believe that virtually anyone who talks about you, or your business, can instantly become a reporter, and I’m talking about friends and family members,” he said. “I’m talking about clients, thought leaders, politicians, anybody who talks about your business, you, your business — one of your issues can instantly become a member of the media.”
When being interviewed, Seidel and Grizzle said, the first thing business owners must consider is what is in it for them and what advantages the business owner can gain from the interview. The business owner must recognize they are being approached for their expertise in a particular field, consider the audience they want to address and deliver the message they want their audience to hear.
“So why talk to the media? Two good reasons. No. 1, it’s an opportunity for you to deliver key messages to target audiences,” said Grizzle. “Think about this: companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to do the same thing — deliver key messages to target audiences. ... And the other obvious reason — and I’ve had this conversation with numerous executives and senior military officers and people at the White House — if you do not talk about your business, your issues, someone else will.”
Reporters, Grizzle continued, are looking for quotes that stick out during the interview. Putting details early into the answer to a question and then backing it up with details is the best way to do it, both men said.
“Now there’s no guarantees, I will tell you, that it’s all going to come out exactly the way you want,” Grizzle said. “But I’ve been dealing with reporters and news organizations for over 30 years and the overwhelming majority of reporters I’ve dealt with really want to produce or write a fact-based, balanced story.”
Potential interviewees, Seidel said later in the presentation, should remember an interview is not a conversation. Preparation is required and even the location of the interview should be considered.
“The overriding message we’d like to leave you with ... is that today you’ve got to have a foundation for a communications plan in place, even if you don’t foresee the occasion, because the occasion’s probably going to come, and start here with a basic foundation and build,” Seidel said. “Make sure you have a crisis plan in place. These are things we can do for you. But be ready because it is a fair game now. Anybody can say anything or write anything and you need to be prepared for it.”
After the presentation, restauranteur Johnny Mitchell said he planned to use the communication techniques within his restaurant when talking to his employees as well as when talking to customers.
“Absolutely, it’s so important. Social media is just at everybody’s fingertips. As the gentlemen here today described, it’s out there immediately worldwide. So no matter where you’re at in the world people can hear a review about us. So everything that everyone says is important,” he said.
Seidel said TMT was available to companies for seminars and training sessions. The company’s clients have included various municipal governments, Autotrader.com, The Coca-Cola Co., Lockheed Martin and others, according to its website.
“”What we have is, we’ve got both sides of the story covered with intelligence from both sides,” said Seidel. “So it’s a complimentary relationship. Since Sam retired at the beginning of this year, we have been doing work together. ...
“That today every business owner, every organization has got to be prepared to talk to the media, in all its various forms, and look at it as a positive opportunity as long as they are prepared, and it takes training like we offer to prepare them.”