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60 Seconds of Fame: Making the Most of Your Next News Hit

It started with an email pitch to the television reporter, followed by several emails coordinating event details, lining up interviews and shoring up the local angle for the story. On the day of the event, the reporter spent 90 minutes on site conducting interviews and recording various camera shots. The ingredients were in the mixing bowl for a great local story.

The piece aired on the station’s evening newscast that weekend — all 60 seconds of it. Hours of prep and coordination … with a one-minute segment to show for it, and just 9 seconds of airtime for our spokespersons included.

By all means, this was a successful earned media hit. It was tailored to our local audience. It was punchy. And it aired a handful of times. But the experience underscored a timeless truth in communications: Make your interviews count.

As PR pros, we naturally yearn for the best coverage of our advocacy efforts and causes. And, keeping our biases in check of course, we often deem our issues worthy of prominent and positive press. However, journalists only have so many words they can write on the page and only so many minutes of airtime — particularly in a very competitive, rapid news environment.

With this reality and my recent experience in mind, I’d like to offer up three lessons as you prepare for your next media interview:

1) Craft and refine your key messages. Increasing distractions and declining attention spans mean people can only remember so much information. With the timeless “Rule of 3” still well in effect today, focus on developing three messages. Think critically about those messages from the shoes of your target audience. What words will connect and stick with them? What will compel them to support you? Then refine those messages so that they can be delivered succinctly in an interview. Narrow your message down to the size of a tweet and no more than 10 seconds on camera. Shorter is always better — especially when being quoted and getting your audience to remember what you said.

2) Choose your spokesperson wisely. It’s critical that you have the right person doing the interview. If you don’t have the right individual, you risk losing your audience immediately. First and foremost, spokespersons should be credible — that is, they better quickly establish that they know the issue they’re talking about. They should be articulate and able to deliver the messages clearly. They should also be able to establish a connection with the audience. This should be someone who people can listen to and relate with, which is particularly important for on-camera interviews. For example, my recent experience described above was for a national high school learning competition. Among our spokespersons: student contestants.

3) “Hey, tell that story again!” Storytelling is the vehicle that carries your messages and establishes the true emotional bond with your audiences. Without that emotional connection with which stories establish so effectively, the appeal to your audience will fall short. Like reminiscing with classmates at a reunion, stories give audiences needed context. They put audiences in the setting, making them smile, laugh, cry or take action. So you should have a pithy story ready to be told and remembered by your audience.

These lessons may not be new to you. But hopefully they’re helpful reminders as you think about how to make your 60 seconds count. Your audience will be watching, but it’s up to you to make sure they notice.


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