So you’ve kicked off some startup PR and secured an interview with the media with your startup founder — great!
It’s only a matter of time before you get some ink that creates an explosion of interest from leads, users and potential investors. Looks like it’s smooth sailing from here… right? Well, not just yet; you still need to make sure you don’t blow the interview.
Before we go any further, it should be acknowledged that just getting a reporter interested in your startup is a good sign that you’ve actually got something that might resonate with a broader audience, and maybe even some potential customers. It’s also a sign that you have some sort of understanding of how to tell an effective story.
As we’ve said before, telling your story to the media is different than telling your story to other audiences, i.e. pitching investors. Therefore, if you don’t tell your story effectively during a media interview, the story the reporter writes might be as dull as the one you tell, or even worse, they may decide there is no story and not write at all.
Here are some tips to help you crush (in a good way) a media interview:
- Make your story concise
Today’s news cycle is fleeting. Where news used to have a shelf life of up to a week, today it comes and goes in minutes. Because of that, and the tendency for people to snack on content in small bites, you have to tell your story in a way that is easily understandable and memorable. While you might get an immediate boost of traffic to your site from an article in TechCrunch, if your story isn’t memorable than you’ll be forgotten as quickly as you were noticed.
- Speak to your audience
Always remember that a reporter is a conduit through which you can reach the people who can help your startup grow. Navigate a media interview with that audience in mind. Tell your story in a way that captures the people you want to hear it. An early stage startup might want to address leads, users, customers and investors all at the same time. Craft messaging that appeals to all, but also delivers specific points that resonate with each of them individually.
Say you’re a mobile app targeting millennials. The overarching message might look like this: “For millennials we make X easier (better, more entertaining, etc.) by doing X.” This will resonate with your target as well as investors since you’re hitting on the user growth in that demographic and perhaps the monetary value millennials hold with advertisers.
Then, for the actual millennial customer, your messaging should hit on why your service is right for them. Don’t just say who you’re targeting, point out why your features are enhancing a certain part of their lives.
- Bucket things into 3’s
The human brain thinks in threes; it’s simply easier for us to absorb information when it’s presented that way. If you bucket all of your important points into threes then they are more likely to resonate with the journalist, which means you are helping them remember the important stuff for when they sit down and write the story. This rule applies to much more than media interviews. Use it whenever you are trying to communicate important information effectively.
- Use anecdotes where numbers aren’t compelling
Often times, early stage companies don’t have the numbers to support how awesome they are. And today, where reporters look to numbers to substantiate and validate the success or trajectory of a startup, this can be a challenge. The best way to avoid distilling your story is by replacing numbers anecdotes where it makes sense.
When the reporter asks you how many users you have, instead of saying “It’s early, so we only have about 100 right now,” say something much more powerful like:
“It’s still early, but we are pleased with the growth we are seeing. However, what we are really excited about is what we’re hearing from users that validates that there is a real need for us.”
Then go on to provide an anecdote from one of those users. Reporters love anecdotes because they make the story real. That is, as long as you’re not just saying you’re an “Uber for X”. Think a little bit deeper about the problem you’re solving and find an anecdote that really has impact.
- Use the end of the interview to reinforce key points
At the end of the interview the reporter will probably ask you if there is anything else they should know. Use that as an opportunity to go back and hammer home your one to three points of emphasis, or anything that you may have missed. Remember, there’s no going back after the interview (see bonus tip, below). While it’s normal to wish you had said a couple things differently after the fact, you don’t want to walk away from the interview without making sure the reporter knows the important points.
BONUS! Don’t kill the story by overdoing the follow-up
It’s completely OK for you to follow up via email with the reporter and thank them for taking the time to meet with you and learn about what you are doing. And that’s where it stops. Do not follow up and attempt to reinforce key points via email or explain things differently now that you’ve had a chance to reflect. Do not keep pinging them asking them when the story will run. This is sure to kill the story and even worse, the relationship with the reporter. PR professionals spend years creating and fostering relationships with reporters. Don’t kill yours before it even begins.
What other tips do you have for successfully navigating a media interview? We’d love to hear from you!