Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What I’ve Learned from Doing TV Interviews

By: Laura Calderón, Communications Consultant
In October 2012, our chapter was fortunate to host Dr. Joe Trahan, APR, for our annual workshop. He focused on that dreaded PR function—the tough on-camera media interview.
I played investigative reporter and conducted mock interviews with workshop participants. Feedback was positive and confirmed how important spokesperson skills are for our profession.
For almost nine years, I served as a spokesperson for a large tax-funded organization. We handled the two most precious things in a person’s life—their children and their money—topics that frequently brought reporters to my office. In the spirit of Dr. Trahan’s workshop, here are my two cents on what I learned during those years of doing media interviews.
Think like a reporter. Become a TV news junkie and watch investigative reporters like a hawk. Listen to the types of questions they ask. After a while, you’ll pick up their pattern and be able to anticipate most reporters’ questions. If you really get into this, check out www.ire.org, the Investigative Reporters and Editors organizational web site, for a look into the mindset.
Do your research and know your subject matter. Assume the role of reporter as you gather information within your organization. Probe the weaknesses in your case because the reporter will do the same.  Watch the Sunday morning political news shows—these are especially good for examples of bridging to key points. Part of your research should include knowing the reporter’s style. This is another good reason to watch the local news.
Be ready for questions that are likely to come. Quite often, the reporter’s opening question is, “What happened?”  This is your opportunity to lay out your story as you want it told. In an interview about an organizational blunder, a reporter often asks, “What are you going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Be ready to highlight the positive steps your organization is taking. At the end of an interview, the reporter is likely to ask you, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” Repeat or deliver your most important messages.  Quite often, this is the sound bite that gets aired.
Practice your interview with another person acting as the reporter. Doing a good interview is like playing a sport—practice makes perfect. In addition to good research, practice is the single most critical piece to managing an interview. It gives you confidence and the simulation can show you where you are strong as well as weak. For years, New York City Mayor Giuliani and key staff set aside one day per month to practice their communication skills. So when Sept. 11 came, his communication skills were honed.
Don’t be afraid to hold your ground with the reporter when it makes sense. In general, you want to cooperate as much as possible with the reporter. But sometimes this can work against you. If a reporter wants to interview you outside in 100 degree weather with the sun in your face, it is OK to say no and do it inside. But remember, politeness is key!
Sometimes a reporter really is unfair and biased. This is a tough one because it is difficult to prove and media outlets view this complaint like the boy that cried wolf. There are no pat answers on what to do. One approach is to give in and try to limit your story to as few news cycles as possible. Or you can play hardball PR—check out Rusty Cawley’s book “Hardball PR: How to Get Tough with ‘Investigative’ Reporters.” I have filmed an investigative reporter’s interview and then posted the full interview on our web site because our comments were highly edited. Reporters say this doesn’t work, but I can tell you it can. In another case, we presented hard evidence of the reporter’s bias to the TV station’s news director, general manager and legal counsel. They were skeptical and dismissive until the irrefutable proof came out. We were lucky to have evidence. Tread carefully because there is truth to the old adage of never doing battle with people who buy ink by the barrel.
Provide written background if the subject matter warrants it. If your topic is complex, a brief write-up helps their understanding and prevents reporting errors. This is helpful when your story depends on statistics, legal references or processes, or chronology.
The ambush interview is frightening. Here’s what I know from one local TV news outlet. This outlet will only ambush you if you have refused their request for an interview and after their legal department has given the OK. So if you refuse an interview, check the bushes for lurking reporters. One of my favorite blogs, www.mrmediatraining.com, advises: “…the reporter is after one thing: A great visual that makes you look guilty. If you respond with defensiveness, anger, or shock, the news outlet will run the tape of your bad reaction repeatedly, often for days. You win an ambush by denying the reporter a great visual. If you’re ever ambushed, remember the advice offered in that old deodorant ad: Never let ‘em see you sweat. By remaining calm, you can prevent reporters from getting the compelling ‘money’ shot they desire.”’ Check out the blog for more advice.
 These tips have served me well. I hope that they will do the same for you.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Media Wildfire

By Tanya Ledesma

My first experience at a PRSA luncheon was fun, educational, and I won a raffle (not too shabby, huh?). I had the pleasure of meeting an awesome group of individuals from fields including: news, organizations, and businesses. And like me, these individuals wanted to know more about how to catch the interest of the public.
Nathan Cone, director of marketing and digital content at Texas Public Radio, spoke about how we can create content on our blogs, websites, social media, etc. worth sharing. He explained that at the radio station, there are three channels they use to create engaging content for the public: on-air, online, and through public programming. Along with these programming types there are several types of stories that can engage an audience:
1.       Place explainers
2.       Crowd pleasers
3.       Curiosity stimulators
4.       News explainers
5.       Major breaking news
6.       Topical buzzers
7.       Feel good smilers
8.       Provocative controversies
9.       Awe-inspiring visuals
Cone continued with the three ways they at TPR tell a story: on-air promotions, through social media, and with outside marketing. As the luncheon went on, and my food slowly began disappearing from my plate, I found myself thinking about how everything I do on a daily basis in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) is exactly how PR is adapting to expand its horizons. After a few more examples on storytelling, it was dessert time! For the final course, Cone served up seven steps on how to dominate Twitter.
1.       Identify your focus
2.       Compile your twitter source and influencer list
3.       Tweet with pace and consistency
4.       Live tweet events
5.       Use hashtags(when the time is right)
6.       Have conversations
7.       Share your work with important people.
As the luncheon began to wind down, Cone said something that got me thinking. “You are a curator for information. You need to be actively engaged so that the readers know you are reliable for the subject matter you do, and make it so that people can read it, but not too simple where you use abbreviations or emoticons.” This rang true to my own experiences. With blogs, tweets, and Facebook updates I’ve read, the content has been readable, yet not anything like how my friends tweet or post. They are simple and don’t feel like a PSA or commercial. All in all I was very grateful in having the opportunity in going to the PRSA luncheon and encourage current and prospective public relations practitioners to attend one and learn from those whom have experiences we hope to one day have.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Creating Content Worth Sharing

By: Delisi Araceli Duarte
This month, Nathan Cone, Texas Public Radio’s director of marketing and digital content, was the guest speaker at the PRSA luncheon at The Bright Shawl. His presentation discussed three ways to tell a story, nine types of ways to engage an audience, and seven steps to Twitter dominance.
As a social media lover with 827 Twitter followers, I found the seven steps to Twitter dominance most interesting. I had been wondering what to do in order to join the ranks of highly-successful Twitter accounts with several thousand followers, and often asked: Is there a method to this? Should I try to be more entertaining? Am I tweeting too much? Should I use more hashtags?
Cone’s presentation quickly helped me realize my problem might be that I do not address or focus on anything specific. My tweets vary from humor, to pictures of my Maltipoo using Instagram, to breaking entertainment news, to the problems that occur when planning a wedding, and everything in between. Rarely do I engage in a conversation on Twitter (one of Cone’s seven steps), unless it is with someone that I know. I had my “ah-hah” moment when Cone listed the final step in Twitter dominance. Share your work with important people.
When I became President of the PRSSA Chapter at UTSA, I made it a point to follow other PRSSA presidents and Twitter accounts that focused on leadership. Every leadership account I followed had an audience of several thousand, and I quickly found out why. I found almost every tweet valuable. Here’s how it went: I learned something, tried to apply it to myself and shared it with others. “Ah-hah!” I started to interact with the Twitter accounts with several thousand followers by sharing their information, and I saw an almost immediate response. The tweets with substance, from accounts that had value and importance, helped the performance of my own Twitter account in ways I never realized.
Sometimes the answer is right in front of you and you never even realize it. In my case, Cone’s presentation helped me realize I have the tools to dominate Twitter—it is just a matter of using them wisely.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Planning Events—PR Style

By Laura Salkowski

As a communications student at UTSA and someone aspiring to have a career in Public Relations, I'm always looking for valuable information I can have in the future. At the February PRSA luncheon, I learned tips of the trade from a panel of three PR professionals who plan events on a daily basis.
Speakers JoAnn Andera, director of the Texas Folklife Festival; Monica Faulkenbery, APR, assistant director of communications at Northside ISD; and Mari Gonzales, communications associate at H-E-B, shared their personal experiences, planning guidelines, and tips for a successful event. 

From their presentations I learned that you can’t always prevent the unexpected, but you can always prepare for it. When it comes to small snags in an event program, it is best just to keep things moving along. 

Faulkenbery pointed out, “No one [in the audience] knows what is supposed to happen… So just go with the flow!” Making staff assignments based on their capabilities can help keep everyone calm when dealing with tricky event crises, said Andera. Gonzales added that it is important to utilize all your resources, including personnel staffing the event.

I left the luncheon with pages of notes packed with great event-planning information, but the top three things I learned about planning PR events are:

  1. Know your objectives and your audience.
  2. If it is a repeated event, keep it fresh and keep it new each time. 
  3. Your written plan is your best insurance plan.
Laura Salkowski is a student contributor to the Byline Blog and is a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Unintentional Internship

By Ariana Michelle Bocanegra

I walked into my first PRSA luncheon at The Bright Shawl on January 3. My appropriate business professional attire did little to appease my nerves. I was nervous, but also excited at the opportunity to interact with experienced public relations practitioners.
I didn’t know anyone at this luncheon but the friendly atmosphere quickly became evident as everyone introduced themselves to me when they checked in at the reception area. As people began filtering in, I walked around the room selling raffle tickets to benefit the Marilyn Potts Endowment Fund, which provides a scholarship to PR students at UTSA. I spoke with PR professionals from H-E-B, San Antonio Area Foundation, Trinity and many other places. I also met Terry and Angel from Alamo Area Council Boy Scouts of America. Angel, communications and marketing director at the Boy Scouts, wanted to buy a raffle ticket, but he didn’t have cash, so his co-worker Terry bought one for him. While I was tearing the tickets and putting away money, Angel and Terry told me about an internship position they were looking to fill for the spring semester. I told them about my participation in PRSSA, and that I was connected to a network of PR students who might be able to fill the position. Angel gave me his card so that I could announce it to the other PRSSA members.

After I finished selling raffle tickets, I went to find the seat I had saved before, and it turned out it was at the same table as Angel and Terry! We continued our discussion about their internship opportunity for the spring, and ended up scheduling a formal interview for the position. A week later, I was sitting in my office at the Alamo Area Council Boy Scouts of America, drinking coffee! I didn’t intend to land an internship at the PRSA luncheon, much less look for a position, but it was a great opportunity that I happened to stumble upon.

Both professionals and students benefit from the PRSA luncheons. It's a great way to learn from those around you and create lasting, meaningful professional relationships. I am going to continue to attend PRSA luncheons. I am committed to the Public Relations profession and the San Antonio community because of the networking opportunities provided by the local PRSA chapter!

Ariana Michelle Bocanegra is a student contributor to the Byline Blog and is a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.