5 Mistakes Leaders Make with Reporters – Forbes Analysis

By Mark Macias

I recently wrote a story for Forbes, outlining 5 mistakes I frequently see leaders make with reporters. CEOs are traditionally articulate and great with the gift of gab, but when it comes to their interaction with the media, I’ve frequently observed many of the leaders make the same mistake.

It’s a shame because it’s not easy getting interviews with reporters. PR firms have to work very hard to land the pre-interview, and you typically only get one shot. Over the summer, our team secured a 20-minute phone interview with a FOX News anchor. I worked with the CEO closely, gave him a briefing document and was on the call, trying to keep it focused. Still, at the end of the phone call, the anchor told the CEO point-blank: I don’t know what this story is now.

Here is an abridged version of the article I wrote for Forbes. You can read it more in-depth by clicking here.

They start the interview chronologically

It’s our nature to want to tell a story from the beginning, but this approach doesn’t work with reporters. It’s critical to get to the story point quickly during any interview.

Reporters want to understand quickly what the story is – or they will get lost. If you start the story chronologically – and it’s a long story – every additional minute of talking is another potential minute at risk of losing the story. 

They don’t stay focused on the story sell

This is a subtle mistake – perhaps even nuanced. But for reporters, this inability to hear the story sell is a killer. 

All reporters – regardless of experience – know they are writing for their readers. And that means they need a payoff for their readers. If you don’t communicate the payoff in the interview – also known as the sell – the reporter won’t have a story.

They share information and not insight for the story

I always tell my clients that you are the expert for the story. Reporters want to hear your expertise. However, if you just share information or stats in the interview, you diminish your value for the story.

A common mistake from many CEOs and CTOs is to jump into the facts or data without providing insight or color on what it means. Don’t diminish your expertise or knowledge by quoting industry stats or data points. Instead, tell the reporter what they suggest or reveal.

They don’t take time to breathe

Most reporters are respectful of industry leaders and won’t want to interrupt them in the middle of a conversation. On the other side, many business leaders know they have a few minutes to tell the story so they try to compress a 30 minute thought into 10 minutes of run-on sentences. I have a general rule that I tell my clients. Don’t speak for more than 2 minutes without checking in with the reporter, and asking if he’s following along.

They talk about themselves

It’s okay to sprinkle personal stories and anecdotes throughout the interview but most reporters don’t want to hear about years of experience. I understand why some leaders take this approach: it’s a way of demonstrating expertise.  But if you’re dealing with an experienced reporter, trust me, he already knows about your expertise before he jumps on the call.