Six simple steps to executing a seamless interview schedule
If you have been granted interviews with a brand spokesperson, they will expect you to deliver a polished, well thought-out schedule, execute it seamlessly on the day and problem solve your way through any delays, challenges or issues.
In this episode, former publicist and now talent agent Corey Cooper from CC & Co. and I walk you through six simple steps to creating and executing an interview schedule. We cover how to review and schedule media opportunities, the elements you need to consider allowing time for on the day of the interview plus how to navigate your way through unexpected and last-minute changes to the schedule.
“Your job on this day is to ensure the interviews run to schedule as seamlessly as possible. It is not to become the best friend of the spokesperson and it is not an opportunity to catch up on your calls or emails. Be attentive, agile, agreeable and assertive"
Listen to the full episode on The PR Pod podcast for more about creating an interview schedule for a brand spokesperson. You'll also find this episode on your fave podcast players, just search "The PR Pod".
AN OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE INTERVIEW SCHEDULE SHOULD INCLUDE
This document should be your bible for the period of time you have access to the spokesperson/talent you're working with. If you become unavailable on the day, someone else should be able to pick up this document and be able to execute the schedule without feeling confused.
Most talent managers will want to see a finalised document 2 - 3 weeks in advance of the interview day
The kinds of things the schedule should include are:
Every single interview opportunity: how long each interview is for, who the producer/journalist is plus their landline/mobile/email, clarity on whether it is live/pre-record, on phone/face-to-face. This is less important for the talent manager and more important for you, so you have the details easily to hand in case you need to make changes on the day
Travel details: Flight details (airline, terminal, security details for VIP access), transfers (driver name/contact, booking company name/contact), time in car from interview A to B, accommodation (hotel address/phone, concierge details, guest liaison manager). The talent manager will want reassurance you are facilitating all the elements the talent requires to do their job for you.
Hair & Makeup / wardrobe: When they will arrive, when there is time to do touch-ups, when the talent can do wardrobe changes if required
Breaks: coffee, cigarette, lunch
Catering: caterer company, contact name/number, delivery location, inclusions, dietary requirements
FIVE EASY STEPS TO CREATING AND EXECUTING INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
The key to executing a brilliant interview schedule is being organised, having exceptional attention to detail and being able to think on your feet in the heat of a moment. These five steps will guide you through the process.
1. REVIEW THE PURPOSE AND MEASUREMENT GOALS OF THESE INTERVIEWS
Purpose: Are you looking to simply announce the partnership with this spokesperson? Are you combining the partnership announcement with the announcement of a new product/service that they'll be an ambassador for? Have they been a long-term brand ambassador and you want to draw attention to a particular event or movement they'll be involved with? Have a good understanding of the purpose as you'll need to keep this in mind when you start to make decisions about media outlets.
Measurement Goals: Is your product/service widely available/accessible and therefore you want the biggest reach you can to touch as many people as possible? Is your focus on a niche demographic so you're more driven to secure coverage in a particular collection of media outlets? Will your client/brand be thrilled to be featured in a certain publication or angry if don't secure something specific?
2. BRAINSTORM ALL THE RELEVANT INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES
Consider the target market demographic of the product/service the brand spokesperson is representing. If you've been working with that brand for a while, you will know these already. If not, think about what publications that target market is likely to consume. Is it niche or is it broad? Be specific with what the opportunities are. It may be that one magazine has three interview opportunities within it that they could cover off from the one interview. Ensure you're extremely familiar with the content of that outlet or that segment/section. It's an easy mistake to make to assume that just because a particular radio station has the highest rating breakfast show, that they'd be the best option. Maybe the second highest rating is actually a better fit for the demographic.
Ask the talent manager to provide a list of the interviews the talent/spokesperson has done in the last 12 months. You may find they've recently done a handful of the opportunities you would have included on your list so those publications won't interview them again.
Determine if there's any media outlets or journalists that are black-listed with that spokesperson. The manager may prefer to not confirm these individually to you but will just review the list of media you ultimately present and remove opportunities from that. But, it will save a lot of time to know upfront, if possible.
3. CREATE A SHORT-LIST OF PREFERRED INTERVIEWS
If you've been allocated a certain number of interviews, double it. This allows space for the manager to remove any they may not like. It also means you don't have to go back to the manager to get approval on some additional publications if any of the originals aren't interested.
List the interviews in order of priority (in your opinion). That way it's clear which ones you'll be approaching first.
Consider any media allies you, the spokesperson or the brand may have. It may be that one publication has a little less reach than another but you know they adore the spokesperson/brand and are likely to give you double the amount of coverage. Or, you've built up a strong relationship with a magazine so for one interview slot, they'll give you three different pieces of relevant coverage from them.
Consider any syndication opportunities from an outlet or existing brand partnerships. Perhaps one interview with a particular newspaper will be syndicated to another seven so it gives you a greater reach. Or, maybe the brand you work for is owned by a huge global company that also owns radio stations. So, it will be easier or preferred to place an interview there.
4. SUBMIT THIS LIST FOR APPROVAL
Send this through to your own manager first. They may have some insight or extra information you need to consider.
When approved by your manager, send it through to the talent manager. Include links to any online outlets so they're aware where you expect the interview to run and attach a reference to a particular section if there is a regular Q&A you would like the spokesperson to do. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to review the opportunities and provide feedback.
Ensure you provide an appropriate deadline for feedback. Keep in mind the talent manager will need at least 24 - 28hrs to review, and then they may want to chat with the talent directly about the list. So I'd allow a week in total and specify the preferred deadline for feedback in your email.
Keep in mind the manager is likely to want the confirmed schedule locked in 2 - 3 weeks prior to the interview date. And, depending on how many interview slots you need to fill and then schedule, this could take you at least a week or two.
Clarify with the manager if there's anything you should be aware of when scheduling the day in. It may be that the talent needs to take a business call for 20 mins during the day, or has to be wrapped up by a certain time.
5. PITCH IN THE INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES & CREATE THE FINAL SCHEDULE
If you have eight interview opportunities to fill, reach out to your first eight on the list. Be clear with what day the spokesperson is available and what they are promoting. If they are keen to speak with them, ask for their preferred times that day or provide them with some options.
Be mindful that you may be able to advise who the spokesperson is but not the brand, or vice versa, who the brand is but not the spokesperson. This is when you will be heavily reliant on your relationships with media for them to trust you are pitching someone relevant to their consumers. Be clear if there is an embargo on any information.
Provide a clear deadline of when you need to hear back on their interest. I'd allow at least 48hrs as the person you're pitching to may need to run it past multiple people before they come back to you. If it's for a much larger opportunity such as a multiple-page feature in a magazine, it could well take longer than that to get confirmation.
Pitch far enough in advance that you can move down the list if you have any rejections. You don't want media outlets to feel like they're second best.
When it comes to scheduling, start first with the interviews that are inflexible. This is most likely to be live radio or television interviews. Online interviews are generally quite flexible and can be done at any time during the day. Newspaper interviews will need to be done in the morning or be finished by about 2pm in order for the story to be filed for the next day's paper.
When it comes to a clash of preferred times, do a quick review. Consider the reach of each outlet, whether one is more of an ally than the other, whether one has a demographic that is slightly more relevant than the other. If you have a clash between a breakfast radio and breakfast television opportunity, see if the radio can do via phone in the greenroom at the TV station. At the end of the day, you can get away with a phone interview for radio and for TV you cannot.
Factor in breaks and take your lead from the manager. Breaks may need to be every hour or perhaps every two hours. Some people would prefer to get an interview schedule over and done with as soon as possible and others like to move through it at a more leisurely pace. Either way, it's at their discretion.
Consider travel time between interviews. And not just the traffic but the movement from the car park and up the lift to the 38th floor. Or that they may get stopped for autographs at the front of a building.
Leave space for hair/makeup and wardrobe. If the spokesperson will be photographed, they may need two hours for hair and makeup at the start of the day, during which they may be happy to do some phone interviews. Or, if they're jumping between some TV shows, they might want to change their outfit. Also, if they had their hair/makeup done at the start of the day, they may require touch-ups through-out the day for subsequent interviews.
Be mindful of phone interviews in challenging spaces. Don't hand a phone to someone when they're about to get into a lift, or if you're being driven through a tunnel and it's likely to drop out.
Leave space for some general interaction with the journalist/presenter. It may be that the spokesperson has a long-standing professional relationship with someone and they want a quick chit-chat after an interview. It's fine to politely let them know you're on a tight schedule so only have a few minutes to spare, but they'll appreciate the fact the can have a quick moment.
Be very clear on which time zone the interview is taking place in. Is it 2pm your time or their time? Make a note in the schedule so the spokesperson can remember to say the relevant greeting (good morning versus good afternoon).
Once the final schedule is approved, reconfirm all interviews 24 - 48hrs prior with each journalist. Get their contact details and any back-up details and share yours. Clarify with them if there's anything they need to be mindful of, such as you can't stay later as the spokesperson needs to get to a flight.
6. BE AGILE AND ATTENTIVE ON THE DAY
Despite all your hard work, there is no doubt something will go awry on the day. If you have a major disruption or set-back, look at the interviews that are immovable first and work around facilitating those. Then slot everything else in as best you can.
Give journalists as much notice as possible. They may need to rearrange their schedule to accommodate your changes and sometimes that is easy to do and others, it's not. A quick text to say you're running five minutes behind is appreciated. Their time is just as valuable as yours.
Clarify with the spokesperson's manager what some alternative options are. If you've been held up by something out of your control (for example, the fire alarm went off in a building and you're in lockdown for 15 mins), see if it's an option to reduce the breaks in the day to make up time. Or, if the talent would be happy to do some phone interviews later that week for any you had to miss.
Listen to every interview without annoying the spokesperson or the journalist. Don't stare at them. Look like you're keeping busy but stay alert. The journalist may go down a line that the spokesperson is clearly uncomfortable speaking about and you need to step in. Or, the spokesperson may need some clarification on product information.
Follow up with each journalist at the end of the day to thank them for their time, clarify when the piece is running and provide any extra information they may have asked for. This plays a huge part in developing relationships. Think about dropping an additional email when you see the interview go live and comment on something relevant you liked about the piece.
Formally thank the spokesperson and their manager via email. Let them know you appreciate them being such a dream to work with, or for being so accommodating with the challenges you had, or for the giggles. Sure, this may have been part of their contract but it just helps cement relationships.
You'll find other episodes dedicated to managing talent up on the podcast already, such as Dos and Don'ts for accompanying talent to TV & radio and Working with a Talent Agent.