If you’re an ingredient supplier or supplement manufacturer eager to shine a spotlight on your products or services, taking advantage of media opportunities is one smart move. It’s a good bet that you have plenty of subject matter experts ready to step up, but that’s just the beginning. Much of what transforms an interview from good to great is meeting the needs of the reporter.
What does a reporter really want from your interview? To answer this question, I reached out to Leslie Pepper, M.S., one of my favorite health writers and member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. For years, her consumer magazine writing has put her in non-stop reporter mode interviewing industry experts, medical professionals, nutrition scientists and other technical folks in the area of health, nutrition and wellness. What’s more, dietary supplements often top her list of trendy topics.
You can learn more about Leslie at her website LesliePepper.com. For now, who better to ask for the inside scoop on what a reporter really wants from us industry folks? Here are her top requests:
- Schedule a time … and stick to it. As soon as you agree to an interview time, a reporter sets the wheels in motion – passing on other opportunities, scheduling time to learn about your business, and most of all, reassuring a worried editor that the copy deadline will be met. In short, agree to a time for an interview, be available at that time and, above all, avoid rescheduling. Don’t forget about the follow up. “Make it as easy as possible by giving a reporter both your phone number and email address,” says Leslie.
- Answer the reporter’s questions. This is no simple feat, especially if your media training goes into autopilot. You may be jumping at the chance to use your favorite sound bite, plotting to get your own agenda points into the conversation, or perhaps preparing to use a few “acknowledge and divert” responses to sidestep sensitive questions. “So many experts don’t listen to what I’m asking,” says Leslie. “Or, they go on and on about something totally different than what I’ve asked.” Don’t be THAT interview … listen and answer.
- Give CONCRETE tips, not esoteric ones. Nothing makes an article come to life more than take-action details. This is especially true if your interview is for a consumer publication. “These are service pieces that demand concrete information,” says Leslie. Think information that people can put to use the moment they finish the article. So, make sure you provide enough detail for the reader to take action. Banish the generic talk and go granular, especially when you talk about dietary ingredients that promote health. As in, “Take X amount, two times per day, because a landmark study found that upping your intake of Y nutrients can do Z.”
- Talk like you are talking with a friend. Leave the tech talk, medical jargon, and corporate speak at the door, it’s not welcome here. Reporters tend to be informal types who prefer straight talk, so plain language is king. “We like personal stories,” says Leslie. So, tell a reporter what makes you so passionate about your ingredient, your technology or your company. Reporters also like (OK, love) funny stories … just like friends.
- NEVER refer a reporter to a press release, your website, or your book. “If I wanted that, I wouldn’t have arranged an interview with you,” says Leslie. But if a reporter asks, send the information quickly. If they ask for samples, send those just as fast.
- Do NOT ask for a guarantee. Reporters have little or no control over the piece once it leaves their hands. So, getting upset that your quotes or your product didn’t make the final cut is futile. Instead, channel that energy into honing your listening skills and preparing for your next interview.