Three core elements of a media backgrounder

If you’ve lined up a media interview for your boss or an expert in your organization, nice work. Earned media is a great way to generate awareness and credibility about your company or organization. But now it’s up to a reporter to actually tell the story, making it all the more important that you help prepare your boss as much as possible. When prepping for an interview with the media, we’ve mentioned the importance of homing in on key messages and practicing anticipated questions. But before digging into the topic itself, start with the basics.

Do some preliminary research about the outlet, the reporter, the day-of logistics and anything else that might be helpful, then compile the research into a concise document or media backgrounder. Getting your boss as familiar with the outlet and the reporter as possible ahead of time will help improve both comfort and confidence during the interview. It’s also a great way to map out all the details that might require some extra preparation. The depth of information on a media backgrounder will vary depending on the medium of the outlet, style of the interview and more. Start with these three elements and expand in places that might be helpful.

Day-of need-to-knows

When and where is the interview taking place? Include the date, time of the interview and time of arrival. Recommending a time to arrive is critical and will depend on the outlet. Some TV outlets request guests arrive early and often even before the show begins while a busy reporter for a print publication might prefer a right-on-time arrival. Include the address and contact person as well as information about parking and instructions about security and getting into the building. If your boss is nervous about the interview, don’t let something like not being able to find parking add to his or her stress.

Details about the media outlet

Share a brief description of the outlet. Is it print, TV or radio? What topics does it cover and in what style? Sharing this information ahead of time will help your boss get into the right mindset when thinking about tone and how to deliver key messages. Including the medium will also remind you and your boss about any extra preparation needed. For example, if the interview will be on tv, you might want to familiarize the interviewee with what to wear and what to avoid.  If the interview is going to be an over-video chat, you’ll want to book a quiet, private space ahead of time with a secure internet connection. It’s also a good idea to look into and share the outlet’s audience demographics and size.

Profile of the Reporter

Here is where you might need to do some digging. Start with the reporter’s name, position and a headshot. Bullet their career history and research past and recent articles to learn what subjects they cover. Have they recently switched to a new beat? Or do they have years of expertise covering one specific topic? Hyperlink a few clips so the interviewee can get familiar with the reporter’s style. Also include links to any active social pages and include a few personal notes. Did the reporter recently have a baby or get married? Do they have a strong political stance? These personal tidbits of information will help your boss steer clear from sensitive topics and help fuel small talk. While a media backgrounder will help prep your boss ahead of time, it can also be useful on the day of the  interview. And don’t forget to remind them to have a good time.

For more information on preparing for a media interview, download our free guide below.

Amanda Colocho

Amanda joined Hodges in 2015 after earning her undergraduate degree in mass communications and public relations from VCU. Since then, she’s been flexing her media relations, content strategy and social media muscles on accounts like Virginia Distillery Company, Motorcycle Law Group, Hilldrup, Kroger, Virginia Outdoors Foundation and Swedish Match’s Umgås Magazine.

Read more by Amanda

Leave a Reply

Sign up to receive our blog posts by email