The Global VC

Startup PR: Your 4-Part Guide for Interview Preparation in a Pinch

Article image
500 Global Team

500 Global Team






The following post was contributed by Leta Soza, PR Engineer at AirPR. Follow her @LetaSoza.

Leta Souza

You’ve reviewed the 7 Signs You’re Ready for PR and you’ve landed an interview with star business reporter after chatting them up at a networking event. Giggles dispersed, you now come to terms with the part that makes you panic: They want to interview you tomorrow!

You choose to:

A) Feign illness (complete with faux coughing) while making the call to cancel.

B) Politely ask if the reporter would mind rescheduling (Until you’ve had enough time to build key messaging, prepare talking points, and buy the perfect interview outfit)

C) Accept with enthusiasm, kick it into overdrive, and nail down some strategic talking points stat. You’ll dedicate some extra time to building messaging after the interview so you’re more prepared the next time you hook one.

If you chose A or B, shame on you! When opportunity knocks, it’s in your best interest to answer the door. It’s fine to agree upon a different date and time than the one a reporter first proposes, but this should be due to scheduling conflicts, not your want for a generous amount of prep time.

If you chose C, great job! You have enough time to pull together talking points, and transform into the star spokesperson we know you can be.

The following 4-part guide is packed with idea accelerators and tips for interview preparation when your time is limited. You’ll just need a trusted colleague who understands your messaging objectives and business goals and a few free hours to hash out a plan. Reserve a conference room and have at it!

Part 1: Key Messaging

Goal: Develop 3 talking points that support your core business objectives.

These should convey your business’s value proposition and share the current news you’re looking to publicize. For each question below, jot down a few answers, pull out the most important 3 ideas. You will turn to these time and time again when talking with the media or even reiterating company goals to your team.

When it comes to the media, you get 27 words, nine seconds and three key points. It’s the 27-9-3 rule. This is a concept that originated with the legal profession, but it holds true for PR. If you can’t get out the most important aspects of your product or business using this rule, then you’ve got work to do. Particularly in today’s fast-paced, attention deficit-driven environment, keep it short, informative and sweet!

What does your company do? 

This should be to the point and speak to the problem your business is solving.

What’s your mission?

Aspiration here is key. How does the world look different once you’ve solved the problem?

What are you doing that’s cutting edge? 

Think about where you’re innovating and how it is relevant to current or emerging business trends. Contrive a clear statement of your relevancy and how you fit into the big picture.

Why is what you do special? 

You can also answer the question, “How are you different from your competitors?” but steer clear of downtalking others and stay focused on your business as a whole. 

What news do you have to share today?

Whether it’s an upcoming product launch, sale, or rebranding, share your most special news (as long as it’s interesting and relevant to the reporter’s audience). 

Part 2: Flavorful Anecdotes aka Tasty Tidbits

Goal: Identify anecdotes that will help ‘show’ instead ‘tell’ your brand’s story.

Sharing actual examples of your company’s day-to-day interactions will illustrate how you’re special. Tangible proof that you’re innovative is much more credible than your statements about it.

Checking out some examples of actions speaking louder than words:

In this company culture piece published by American Express OPEN Forum, online retailer ModCloth employee Martha S. shares an interesting tidbit about how the company shows appreciate to its employees. Once you hit your 2-year “Modiversary,” the company names a dress after you.

Quirky business card printer MOO created a “Startup Toolkit” series on its blog that provides newly launched business with valuable advice on how to get started. How you provide additional value outside of your primary business model is always worth highlighting.

Now, ask yourself:

What unique customer interactions have changed the way we do business?

In what ways, specifically, have we bridged the gap between our customers and the people behind the scenes at our company?

If you have video links, images, or other media that support one of the anecdotes you share, let the reporter know you’ll send them over after the interview.

Part 3: A Mock Interview 

Goal: Hold a faux interview in order to get yourself comfortable with responding under pressure.

Chances are you won’t be asked these exact questions. It’s really just about practice. Think about how to drive the conversation back to your key messages from Part 1.

Have your colleague take notes while conducting the interview so the two of you can discuss areas that need some improvement afterwards. Regardless of how you do, you’ll be so glad you did a dry run before show time.

Mock Interview Questions

Tell me about your business.

Rehearse your 27-9-3 talking points about your business, being sure to deliver in a colorful and authentic way. 

So, what are we here to talk about today?

Often times, reporters have dozens of interviews lined up at any given time. Give a refresher on where your company is right now, and what exciting things you have in the pipeline. 

How are you different than competitor X?

Whether you’re asked this question directly or not, what the reporter really wants to know is why they should be interested in your restaurant-finder app when there are so many others out there like it.

What’s your revenue?

Unless you’re making an announcement sharing company metrics (always have a PR professional help you with something like this!), this question is best answered with a polite, “I’m not at liberty to share that today, but what I can tell you is that our user base has grown significantly this past year. We’re so excited to bring x, y, and z to the marketplace/customer.” Then you lead the conversation elsewhere. This is called bridging. 

Part 4: Delivery & Timing 

Goal: Promote an air of ease during your interview.

Now that you have the right idea about what to share, polish off your preparation with these helpful tips:

Dress for the occasion. Wear something comfortable that speaks to who you are as a brand. If you own a clothing company, wear merchandise from your site. Tech companies (and some tech publications) tend to be fairly casual. Just use your common sense, taking the publication’s audience into account.

Strike a power pose 10-15 minutes before the interview. ‘Superwoman stance’ is said to lower cortisol (the stress hormone) and raise testosterone (which will get you excited to engage).

It’s okay to pause. Not sure how to answer something? Giving yourself a moment to think is perfectly acceptable. If you’re still unsure of how to answer after a moment’s time, it’s more than fine to say you’ll get back to the reporter with an answer later that day.

Now, do you feel more prepared? There are tons of media training videos on YouTubeto browse if you have a little extra time. Good luck!

500 Global Team

500 Global Team