To sell or not to sell? How can you communicate your company values to a journalist, without losing their attention?
Here at Tamarindo, we talk a lot about how important it is to avoid ‘going on the sell’ during a media interview.
In fact, it’s one of the most common mistakes that people make when talking to a journalist.
But just to confirm: if you, representing your company, are being interviewed by a journalist, the journalist will be far more interested in what you can say about the wider market than in your company itself.
Media Interview Isn't a Sales Pitch
Remember: journalists are not potential clients, and they do not want to be ‘pitched’ to. Instead of talking about how great your company is, or your new line of products, look outwards and comment on the trends you’ve noticed in the market.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that any information about your company is irrelevant – far from it. Your company news is important. But it’s only interesting in so far as it illustrates something about the wider market.
For the purposes of demonstration, let’s say you work at a company that manufactures solar panels, and you’re talking to a journalist for a trade publication such as Recharge.
Compare the following two statements that you might make in an interview:
(A) “We’ve done really well in the last quarter – our new ‘SuperX’ line of panels are incredibly lightweight, sturdy and efficient – and we’ve seen an incredible number of orders come in for them. Traditional solar panels have an average maximum efficiency of 22%, but ours are now reaching 30%, which delivers a fantastic ROI for our customers…”
This reads like a sales spiel – which is fine, in the right context. But a journalist isn’t interested in buying your products – and neither is their audience.
Try this instead:
(B) “We’ve seen a spike in demand for our solar panels in the last quarter – which shows the success of the global solar markets at the moment. We’re particularly seeing a lot of enquiries from developers in the Middle East, which we attribute to the continuing generosity of government subsidies for solar plants in the region.”
This answer draws on company knowledge (e.g. that a lot of enquiries have come in from the Middle East) but only in order to comment on a wider trend (the political support in the region).
It is important to leverage your company knowledge – this is, after all, why the journalist is talking to you – but always keep in mind that the interview should primarily be about the wider markets, and the economic, political and regulatory factors affecting your industry.
So what about company ‘messaging’?
I’m glad you asked.
So far, we’ve established that you should avoid ‘selling in’ your company during media interviews – journalists are primarily interested in your insights on the wider market, not in hearing about your products or service offering.
However, media interviews do offer some scope for a little bit of sneaky self-promotion.
And this is where company messaging comes in.
Your PR team should have worked with you to develop around 3-5 core ‘messages’ that define your brand. These will tie in to your marketing strategy, the commercial ‘persona’ of the company, and the main company values.
For example, and say you’re still working for that solar panel manufacturer, your company’s defining core messages might be:
- Experience – you’ve been around for 40 years, which means you’re among the most experienced and knowledgeable in the business
- Trust – a lot of your business comes from repeat customers
- Quality – you might be a little pricier than your competition, but your solar panels are a ‘best in class’ solution offering a great long-term ROI
(Pay attention to point (3) – we’ll come back to this).
How to include your company ‘messaging’ in a media interview
So now you’ve decided on your core company messages with your PR and marketing teams, these messages should come across in all external communications.
This includes media interviews and contributed articles, marketing materials and even sales strategy. (PR is a key lead generation tool, and it’s important not to ‘silo’ the sales, marketing, and PR departments of your company).
But these company messages are – and should be – inherently self-promoting, which means that getting them into a media interview can be a tricky business (see all that info above, about not going ‘on the sell’ to a journalist).
Essentially, the key is subtlety. The journalist will already be aware of your company’s positive attributes, otherwise they wouldn’t have agreed to talk to you – so there’s no need to overdo it.
How to tread the line? Let’s go for another example.
(Remember, you’re representing your solar-panel-manufacturing company, and your three core messages are (1) Experience, (2) Trust, and (3) Quality.)
Here’s how you could weave point (3) into a media interview:
“The US has recently introduced taxes on imported Chinese solar panels. How do you think this will affect the domestic solar market?”
“Well, Chinese solar panel manufacturers have traditionally sold panels at a much cheaper rate than domestic US manufacturers could manage – and so some developers are worried about not having access to these cheap panels.
But in our experience, many developers have preferred to support US manufacturers, and are happy to pay a bit more for a good quality product – so they won’t be affected by this. For example, our prices are higher than some of the competition – but our panels are in demand because they’re a ‘best in class’ product.”
The answer above doesn’t read like a sales pitch – but it also manages to introduce a core company message, which is used to illustrate a point about the wider market. This kind of ‘drip-feeding’ in interviews, over time, will establish your company brand and ensure that when people think of your company, the image that springs to mind is exactly the one you want it to be.
To sum up
In a nutshell, journalists want to learn about the wider market in which you work, not to be given a sales pitch.
Your company news and knowledge is valuable – but only if it illustrates something about the wider market. (Don’t tell the journalist all about your sales pipeline just for the sake of it.)
Building on this, the most skilled of interviewees will learn how to weave in their company ‘messaging’ during interviews, asserting their company’s core values without ‘going on the sell’.