WHEN the pandemic looks set to bring your business near to disaster, you might think appearing in front of the media is the last place you’d want to be.
But making your plight very public can bring huge benefits – it might even save your company or organisation, if it means the people with the proverbial deep pockets hear your story and come to your aid.
There was a great example of this on Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today this morning and it contained many top tips for anyone who still needs convincing of the merits of embracing a media interview.
The interviewee was Andy Hall from BIAZA – The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Many zoos are facing financial ruin because of COVID-19, and BIAZA argues that the Government’s offer of a recovery fund, which kicks in only 12 weeks before any potential ruin, is not much use, as any threat of closure would mean trying to re-home animals long before that.
So up stepped Andy to make a powerful case for a change of heart, and here’s what he got so right:
– he sounded incredibly energised. There was real fizz in his voice, despite the gloomy subject and very early hour of the day!;
– he had a snappy turn of phrase, frequently coming out with soundbites such as, “Conservation is at the heart of what we do” and “We have a responsibility to pass on nature to the next generation”;
– he was unequivocal and firm in his response to questions: “It’s just not good enough!”, or “Absolutely!”. There were no wishy-washy phrases like, “Well, I suppose you could say that…” or “I think that might be the case…”;
– he offered a solution – and an easy one too, saying the Government, “can make really minor changes to get this support to the zoos…” and then went on to highlight specific action;
– and he addressed the audience directly: “I would say to the public at home, ‘Get out, go visit your zoos, and support them over what’s possibly going to be their worst financial winter in memory!”.
If this sounds rather straight-forward and obvious, it is. But it’s actually very hard to do in the “white heat” of a national broadcast media interview. Those key messages need to be prepared and that energy must be created, just like an actor warming up to go on stage, not least because radio and TV tends to “flatten” the energy in your voice.
Without good media training, giving this sort of interview can end up feeling like simultaneously trying to chew gum, pat your head and recite the alphabet backwards.
Thanks to good preparation though, it actually had everything required – after all, when I teach public relations professionals about what makes a good tabloid news story, I say it’s often one that features the royal family, or animals, celebrities, or money (profits and losses) and sex – and a story that has all of those is probably going to make the front page! (Thanks to a reference to some breeding white rhinos, Andy’s interview ticked almost all those boxes.)
BIAZA’s spokesperson showed in just a couple of minutes how much value there is in a really good media interview, especially in a time of crisis.
If the Government is not rethinking its support package for zoos, and the public isn’t digging deep to keep the lions, tigers and bears fed and watered, well, they simply must have the hide of a rhino….