How to Use a Press Interview to Generate More Sales

By Geoffrey James
As a software sales executive, chances are you’ve been asked to speak with reporters from the high-tech trade press. Such situations can be uncomfortable and even dangerous if you don’t know how to handle a reporter’s expectations. Ideally, you want to use the interview to drive more sales. Here’s how.
Before the interview:
  • Do your homework. Find out the reporter’s name and the purpose of the story, as well as your interviewer’s audience. Remember, you will be directing your messages to IT personnel and managers, not to the reporter.
  • Because the subject matter is likely to be technical, provide the reporter with background information prior to the interview such as a fact sheet or press release. If you’re to be featured in the article, email a biography and a high- resolution scan of your publicity photo if you have one. If appropriate, provide the reporter with a free copy of your software.
During the interview:
  • Don’t be afraid to talk technical, but make sure you don’t use company-specific jargon that might confuse the reporter’s audience. Illustrate your points with anecdotes to make your message more believable.
  • State your answers in a positive way. Because you’re dealing with technical matters, if you don’t know an answer it’s OK to say so. Don’t speculate. Refer the reporter to someone, such as one of your software developers, who can answer the question.
  • If you cannot answer a question, never say no comment. Always give a valid reason for not being able to answer, such as a legal case is pending or the information requested is of a proprietary nature. If you are asked a question that should be answered from a different perspective, refer the reporter to the appropriate source.
  • Listen to the question and be sensitive to the reporter’s intent. If you miss the point of the question, you might appear evasive. If you are unsure of the question, rephrase it first, but always answer questions honestly. This is particularly important when dealing with controversial industry issues such as the Microsoft-Linux controversy.
  • While you might be convinced that your software is amazing, avoid any temptation to exaggerate the positive. Remember, it is your goal to give the print reporter enough information to write an interesting story that ultimately will convince people to buy your software. If you only give a sales pitch, the reporter isn’t going to be able to write a story.
After the interview:
  • Follow up with an email thank-you note to the reporter. Be sure the reporter knows where he or she can reach you in case additional information is needed.

If a reporter writes a story that seriously misrepresents the facts, contact the publication’s editor and ask for a correction. Don’t complain about minor slips, such as misspelled product acronyms, in an otherwise accurate story. You’ll only look petty if you ask the magazine to publish a correction about something that’s not really important.