Going beyond the 5 W's in your next media appearance - SmartBrief

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Going beyond the 5 W’s in your next media appearance

3 min read


This post is by Andrew D. Gilman, CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, a privately held specialty-communications firm serving businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations worldwide. Gilman is co-author of “Get to the Point.”

The five W’s are one of the basic tenets of journalistic training. Reporters are taught that good reporting starts with asking the five W’s: who, what, why, where and when. The answers to the five W’s provide base-line information necessary for reporting a factual story.

That’s fine for a reporter, but it doesn’t satisfy a business leader’s goal: to take advantage of a media interview to reach the reader, listener or viewer with his or her message. After all, the reason to agree to a discussion with a reporter is ultimately to influence the audience about your product, service or idea.

In media training, we counsel clients to prepare information to answer a reporter’s five W’s. But that’s table stakes — a reactive and informative response to answering a reporter’s basic questions. That brings us to the sixth W: your website, an underutilized media-relations resource that contains much more information than you can ever communicate in an interview.

Think of it this way: Most print publications and broadcast or cable news programs also publish an online edition. When was the last time you read an article online that didn’t have a link? Sure, during an interview, a reporter should ask you what website contains more information for the reader, but you shouldn’t count on that. We think a good interview should also include information you want to share directly with the audience, not only answers the five W’s that are in an article or a news clip.

The sixth W could also stand for WIIFM, or “What’s in It for Me,” which is the one of the reader’s questions, along with “So What and Who Cares?”

In essence, most business leaders should agree to an interview because it’s an opportunity for a two-way exchange. A reporter wants information that will fill in a story for readers or viewers; certainly, a leader should go in with several points that help the reporter. But he or she should also offer up a website to communicate directly with readers, listeners or viewers who want to know more than what the interview provides.

Thinking about the sixth W can also be a cue for a leader to think about other information that can be prepared in advance to provide to a reporter. The five W’s can be answered quickly and often with a fact sheet, and the faster you can cover them, the more time you will have to discuss examples, stories and other proof that make the article come alive.

The critical point is that leaders prepare for media interviews the way they prepare for presentations. What’s my agenda? What’s the goal of this meeting? What do I want as an outcome? When you think about the sixth W, it helps you exert more control.