5 Tips for Being a Great Wall Street Journal Source

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Never before has it been more challenging for firms to earn quality coverage in premier media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, and Barron’s. With fewer traditional publications in circulation and readership attention scattered all across the web, the competition for high-quality ink is stiff.

Unlike content created for advertising, the world of earned media coverage remains democratic. The most valuable sources to major outlets are those individuals with expertise to share and a compelling story to tell. Whether you’re being asked to comment on breaking news or to discuss developments in your company, the media interview is an opportunity to stimulate interest in your business.

When you get the call to be interviewed by a journalist, be ready to maximize the rare (not to mention cost-free) chance for exposure, messaging, and image shaping on a mass scale. Here are five top tips that the best interviewees learn in media training.

#1  Don’t fake it.

If the prospect of positive exposure in a major publication is meaningful to your business, act like it. This is not a situation for shooting from the hip. Treat the interview like an opportunity to present before a high-end investor or your entire client base.

Be realistic about what knowledge is comfortably within your wheelhouse — and plan accordingly for what is not. In the best-case scenario, you’d have advanced word on the subject matter and your research would be covered in the course of doing your job. But if you don’t know the topic cold or are behind on industry news, spend time bucking up on the market, economic trends, and breaking news. Know your stuff and what you want to communicate.

#2  Meet the journalist’s needs.

Unless it’s expressly clear that the article will focus on you and your company, expect the journalist to be more interested in the perspective you bring to a topic. If you approach the interview purely as an opportunity to broadcast your point of view, the content you deliver will not meet the journalist’s needs — and, consequently, will never see the light of day.

Respect that the interviewer has a job to complete, and be helpful in achieving that objective. A sharp interviewee can always find opportunities to integrate a message. Speaking of which…

#3  Integrate your messages.

Seize opportunities to communicate with your own end audience. Messages can be effectively conveyed about your firm’s products and services provided they are framed within the journalist’s question. To ensure you will be quoted, and to be valuable to the publication, the points you’re personally motivated to impart have to be set within the story’s context.

Always be on the lookout for openings to have a between-the-curtains conversation with shareholders and potential clients. When the openings aren’t there, create them. Again, the key is to satisfy the journalist while inserting your message.

Q:       Should the FED increase interest rates, where do you see vulnerability in today’s market?

A:        U.S. corporate and government bonds with longer durations will be hit the hardest by a rising rate environment, which is why we maintain a global approach to investing in fixed income and an average duration of just 4 years.

#4  Be accommodating — but not passive.

Journalists get antsy when their questions aren’t answered directly; the perception that a subject is being evasive or dodging a topic will inevitably backfire, if the journalist is worth his salt. But you can cede control to the reporter and still steer the conversation.

In some scenarios you may be in an exchange that touches on facts tangentially related to your own talking points, providing you with an opportunity to reply and pivot (frequently referred to as bridging or transitioning). However, a confrontational question may require more adept handling to shift the conversation toward your focus.

For example, say you’re asked a question that leads you to suspect the journalist is planning a muck piece on the annuity business — but you have friends in the industry, and you don’t want to go there. Answer the question and create your own opportunity to redirect.

Q:       What do you make of the fact that XYZ Co. shut down its annuity business?

A:        Well, it’s a business decision that’s difficult to make. I’m sure there are other firms out there taking a similar tack. What I see is a real opportunity for investors looking for other income investment strategies to….

#5  Assume nothing is off the record.

Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see in print. A clever or biting bit of wit may feel right in the quasi-social setting of an interview but won’t necessarily help your case in terms of the quality of coverage received.

Remember that Wall Street Journal content is amplified by the Internet. When you share thoughts with a top-tier outlet, be it in print or with an online site like Business Insider or Huffington Post, the echo effect is huge thanks to social media. The one-liner used in a pull quote by Wall Street Journal becomes a one-liner for ever more, in perpetuity, all over the web.

With the collapse of traditional media, it may be more difficult than ever to gain coverage in high-impact media. That only makes those fewer opportunities all more valuable in building credibility and separating yourself from competitors, not just on the local level, but also nationally. Knowing how to engage during an interview is key to squeezing every bit of juice from the orange, and gaining voice and authority in the market.