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The Scenario

Imagine you are the media relations professional for the organization you are developing the media relations plan for. One of your main tasks is to identify who in the organization will act as its spokesperson. The spokesperson must of course be willing to fulfill that role. In real-life, part of your job will be to train the spokesperson to do media interviews before she starts doing them. You want to establish a very good relationship with the spokesperson and have her email address and cell-phone handy. You should make sure that the spokesperson knows that in case of a media request, she should get back to you ASAP to confirm her availability.

Now think of a current controversial issue that is relevant to, but not about, the organization that you are developing the media relations plan for. For example, if you are working on a media relations plan for Subway, then a controversial topic relevant to the organization could be the link between eating fast food and obesity. This topic concerns your company but it is NOT directly about the company.

Imagine that you just got a call from a news organization asking to interview your spokesperson. In a real-life situation, your first task will be to contact her and confirm that she can do this interview. You must always get back to the journalist ASAP. If you don’t, the journalist will move on to another interviewee and you will lose the opportunity to get your organization in the media. Once you confirm the interview, you should get a sense from the journalist of what specific topics they would like to focus on. Your job now is to pass this information to your spokesperson and prepare her for the interview. You want to make sure she is comfortable with the types of questions that may be asked.

The Assignment- Prepping for an Interview

For this assignment, prepare an email to your spokesperson addressing the ten points below. Please number your answers 1 through 10. You are submitting the email you composed as your assignment.

  1. Identify the news organization, the interviewer, the program, and the time of the interview (pick a real news organization and a real journalist from anywhere in the United States or even the world!).
  2. Do some research on the news organization and the journalist’s interviewing style by looking at former interviews this journalist has done. Is there anything noteworthy about this specific journalist and his/her style? What about the news organization? What can you tell your spokesperson about this? Write a summary of your findings.
  3. Let your spokesperson know how long the interview will take. Your answer to this question will depend on the medium and the specific nature of the program. This will help your client mentally prepare for the interview.
  4. Research the topic of the interview. You need to be especially aware of recent developments surrounding the issue. Give your interviewee reading materials by sharing links to news stories on the topic they will be discussing. You especially want to make sure that your client knows of any recent updates on the topic.
  5. Predict a list of four questions the journalist may ask based on your research on the topic.
  6. Answer the list of questions by focusing on specific talking points that you think your spokesperson must touch upon during the interview.
  7. Offer advice on how your spokesperson should behave during the interview given the nature of the medium (for example: if this is a TV interview, what should she wear? If this is a newspaper interview, can she go off-record)?
  8. Based on what you learned from the book and from class, offer any other related media advice.
  9. Offer your spokesperson the opportunity to practice the questions in person or by phone with you.
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