Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

FE, Education & Business Marketing: Quick, Effective, Low Cost Marketing

Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

PR: Getting Interview Invites From The Media

How Can PR Help Me Grow My Business?
How Can PR Help Me Grow My Business?

One of the Best Free Marketing & Promotion Opportunities a Business Can Get is to be Invited to Speak on Radio or TV About Their Field of Expertise 

You often see experts on TV, hear them on radio or read their comments in the paper. But where do the media find them? Where, at short notice, can the media find an authority to speak about a breaking story? And how can potential interviewees prepare? 


The media actually need countless numbers of experts to interview every day. And this morning it was my turn to be interviewed by Stephen Jardine on BBC Radio Scotland. Stephen wanted my views on the Build a Bear promotion. This was a promo that promised a bear that could be purchased for a price equivalent to the child’s age. So a £3 bear could be bought for a three year old. The result was long queues outside stores, people having to wait hours and the police being called in some cases. 


How to Get Media Interview Invites 

So, how did I get an invite to appear on the show to discuss this issue? In fact why was I invited back for an interview just weeks after previously being on BBC Radio Scotland?

The simple answer is that I’m regularly interviewed by the BBC, including Radio Scotland. And if you do a reasonable interview it increases the chances of being invited back. But of course there was a time when I’d never been on radio. So how can we get that first interview? 


Firstly the media have to know you are an expert and where to find you. They can’t invite you unless they know you exist! It’s not enough to be an expert in your field, known by everyone in your sector. Researchers at the BBC will only know you exist if you make yourself known in some way.


Of course they could Google but that can be a bit hit and miss in these situations. They want to be able to find someone they are certain will interview well and can be easily contacted. Being found on Google or LinkedIn can help but they need to be able to find a phone number for you and give you a ring at, say, 6am! Maybe even earlier for the morning show. 


So researchers need to know you are receptive to being asked to go on air, sometimes at short notice. This morning I was given about an hours notice. Sometimes there is much less time to prepare.


There are several ways that you can raise your profile with the media and indicate you are willing to take an early call and be on air at short notice. 


Media Releases are a great first step. When you have a story produce a media release and send it out. The objective is to get that story noticed and used by the media. But there is a second reason for using media releases. It raises your profile as an expert in a given area. Even if the journalist doesn’t use your story there’s every chance they will save your details. And once you’ve sent out 2-3 media releases your name becomes familiar and hopefully noted.


NewsJacking is something I’ve written about quite a lot. What I personally mean by Newsjacking is spotting a story and turning ti to advantage by sending out my response to the story. It might be via a media release; or better still send the newsroom or producer a short sound bite or video in response to the story. Very few people bother to do this so it catches the media’s eye and is checked out. You can read more about Newsjacking if you do a search for it on my website. 

And in case you think making a video response is an expensive or long winded process, it takes me 5-10 minutes to stand in front of an iPhone, say a few words and email it to the media. It really is that simple.


Media or Expert Directories area great way to be found by the media. These sites list experts by keyword alongside an image and their biog. When a story like Build a Bear breaks, journalists search them for keywords like marketing, branding, parenting or whatever. If you do that on my favourite site, ExpertSources, you’ll find both Sue Atkins (who was interviewed alongside me, and me listed.


The “Little Black Book” is where journalists keep their contacts. Once they find you via a directory, social media or elsewhere journos tend to list you n their book. Once there the chances of a call goes up exponentially. 


Social Media is another place to put your details and availability. This can be static i.e. as part of your profile. Or you can post an article on a particular topic or breaking story and get found that way. All the social media work to a greater or lesser extent but Twitter seems to surpass all others in my view. 

My tactic would be to post a synopsis of the story and your response on your website and then tweet it to the public AND the journos you want to see it. 


How to Prepare for a Media Interview

There are three parts to any media interview.

  • Before
  • During
  • After

Before the interview I do my preparation. Check facts, get my ideas in order and think about what I might get asked. Most interviews are straightforward and the interviewers not there to trip you up. But having found one or two rogues in my time I always also think of the worse question I could get asked by a negative or biased interviewer. This means checking out some of their previous interviews and their stance on various topics whilst I’m preparing. This pays off as I found when one interviewer, with a weight issue, launched into me about advertising food on TV. I was asked if I was ashamed of the way people like me advertised to vulnerable people like children. Being prepared my answer was straightforward and I pointed out that if she had done her research she would know I’ve never placed a food advert in my life and am quite outspoken about ethical marketing and advertising. Strangely enough she brought the interview to a close very quickly after I’d answered. 

Before being interviewed I frequently post the fact I’m to be interviewed on my website or on social media. It makes good marketing sense to do this for lots of reasons.


During the interview I focus on the questions asked and getting my point of view over. Sometimes it’s necessary to guide the conversation back to cover any points you specifically want to cover. But usually a professional interviewer has scoped out their coverage very well and will cover all valid angles in the time allowed before the next news slot or whatever time constraint they have


After the interview I like to reflect on how it went. Did it go as expected? Could I have answered anything better? What follow up is necessary?


For example after the Build a Bear story I wrote this post. I also linked on LinkedIn with my fellow interviewee and I posted comments on social media. The thing is an interview isn’t a single point in time or single occurrence. It offers lots of opportunities, spread over days or weeks, to use the event as an opportunity to raise your profile and maybe win work. 



Media Interview Preparation Notes


I find researching and writing notes get me in the frame and mindset for an interview. Discussing the topic with someone also often helps. Their response can sometimes provide an angle I hadn’t considered. 


Once written, and read just before going on air, I often dispense with the notes. There’s nothing worse than someone reading their interview from a “script”. 


My notes for this interview are provided below. I have no standard format for taking interview notes. It depends on the time I have, the topic and lots of other factors. So, please don’t rely on these notes as a template. But they might give you an idea of what was going through my mind as I researched them. 



Build a Bear Interview – BBC Radio Scotland


The High street is suffering and this business thought of a way to bring people into their shops on the High Street. Good so far BUT ….they didn’t think it through and reflect on the classic mistakes other businesses have made in similar situations.  


In many ways this campaign was ill considered and unprofessional as the company didn’t consider the unintended consequences that stem from high uptake rate, stock availability, how to handle crowds etc..


BAB needs to understand that what works in one country may not in another … and of course the promo was a disaster in the US as well as in the UK.


Promos like this need testing on a small scale before being rolled out worldwide.

Then you can spot problems and deal with them and manage the risk.


This promo was BABs “Ratner” moment. (A remark by Gerald Ratner about Ratners selling rubbish destroyed the £multi million business almost overnight).


The problem with promotions like this are that they result in your company being talked about in a negative way. Trust gets eroded.


Trust takes years to build but can be destroyed in minutes.



Police were called to the BAB shop in Belfast. Not good to see on the news and in parrs 



About BAB


Build a bear have 400 stores worldwide

The US promo was also a disaster with stores being closed for safety and other reasons.


To get this offer customers had to join the BAB Bonus Club and BAB will clearly need to comply with GDPR in the use of this data,



The Hoover Case Study


“The Hoover free flights promotion was a marketing promotion begun in 1992. The British division of The Hoover Company was carrying a large surplus stock of washing machines and vacuum cleaners; in order to sell them and free up warehouse space, it promised free airline tickets to customers who purchased more than £100 worth of its products. However, Hoover had not anticipated that many customers who bought the qualifying products were not really interested in the actual appliances, but simply wanted the tickets offered in the promotion.” Wikipedia


It worked OK with tickets to Europe in round one so they extended the offer to include tickets to the US .. big mistake as the conversion rate went up and people not wanting a washing machine bought so as to get cheap travel.



What can BAB do to rebuild trust?

Be human.

Take responsibility.

Admit they got it wrong.



Run the offer again over a 4-5 week period so there are no queues.



No apology given

“We feel it is important to share that, based on the information available to us before the day began, we could not have predicted this reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event.”


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