Curtis Sparrer, principal at Bospar PR in San Francisco, shares terrific insights on why celebrity interviews are like a high-performance sport. He also explains how to set up really successful media engagements, tips on working with celebrities (he's done award-winning work with George Takei of Star Trek fame), and how to grow trust-based relationships with clients.
Working with a celebrity or CEO on successful media engagements:
- Consider what they can and can’t talk about; do a deep dive with them and their management team about those issues before any media interviews.
- Before an interview, clarify with the journalist what questions will be asked; ask for a written Q&A beforehand; be clear about ground rules; let them know what you want to focus on. Be clear about anything you’d like the journalist to include in the story. Send a follow-up note with thanks and a reminder of the key point(s) you’d like to have included in the story. If your key message isn’t included in the final version of the story, contact the journalist to politely ask that the message be included in that or a future story.
- Crafting the message: First, ask celebrities what they are planning to say.
- Repeat the message: Working it into every interview in several ways helps ensure that key messages are included in the final article. Use pep talks with spokespeople to help keep them on message and excited to keep delivering the messages.
Why celebrity interviews are like a high-performance sport:
- For media tours, consider how many engagements is enough versus what is too many. For a celebrity, after about five interviews, you often have diminishing returns as they get tired.
- Manage the message and the energy in interviews: For longer interviews or media tours, include refreshments to get their sugar levels/energy up so they can perform. Avoid including dairy products to keep the voice clear. Include long energy foods that won’t lead to a sugar crash; fruits like bananas are great. Check with the talent’s management or agent to information on what they prefer.
- Use recorded media simulations to prepare senior leaders or other spokespeople for their on-camera interviews.
- Give criticism in private to help them learn and develop their skills without needing to save face in front of their staff.
- Arrive early to media interviews to give them a chance to get a feel for how the show is flowing.
- Ask production assistants if they have a copy of the script, because it might have a copy of the questions.
- Make sure your clients read the news on the day of their interview and give them a run-down on that day’s news in their sector, because they could be asked their opinion on breaking news. This keeps them from being caught off guard.
- Pay attention to the news for opportunities to give your perspective on breaking stories. Local news producers are always looking to localize (find the local angle) national or international stories to make them relevant to their local audience.
- When a story breaks, journalists are trying to figure out what will happen in the future, what people can expect in the next X days.
- To get coverage that matters to your client’s business, have the CEO give a three-sentence statement, including what this news event means, what people can expect in the future, and why we are an expert to talk about this.
The importance of speed when responding to media:
- Don’t perfect a statement to death; perfect is the enemy of the good.
- A good-enough statement on time is far more valuable than a perfect statement that is too late.
Personal branding and networking for PR professionals:
- Share with your boss what your professional priorities are; helps build your reputation with your coworkers and leadership.
- On LinkedIn, talk about your core values and why they are important to you; make sure you also live those core values.
- Don’t depend on building your brand on only one social platform; cross-pollinate content across your social platforms; show your personal side.
- Brand consistency in developing your personal brand is important, with some exceptions: Authenticity that is not self-promotional (such as sharing photos from your birthday or other important personal event).
- The biggest turnoff with LinkedIn is that it can be an echo chamber of bragging, so break that up with something other than how great you are professionally.
- Be willing to talk about your mistakes and the lessons you learned. Failure is the best teacher and we can learn from it.
- Fail fast, learn from your mistakes, and tell the story as you go.
- Be willing to be vulnerable; it makes you human. This isn’t appropriate for all CEOs, so it’s important to know your client and what will work for them.
- Media tours are a great way to bond with your CEO (or other client), because you’ll spend hours with them in the process. This presents opportunities to get to know them better and to identify other PR opportunities for them.
- Make it a point to attend awards ceremonies and other events that are important to your client. They need to see you as someone who really is in their corner.
- You want to be seen by your client as the trusted, safe counsel for them.