Five ways that architects can do better media interviews
The opportunities for architects and interior designers to speak to the media are myriad and growing. Newspapers, magazines, specialist publications, TV programmes and bloggers are all looking for beautiful homes and interesting buildings to report on. A few years ago, architecture writer and critic Tom Dyckhoff published The Age of Spectacle: Adventures in Architecture and the 21st-Century City, an exploration of the public’s growing appreciation for truly eye-catching buildings. And, certainly, at Communicate Media we’ve seen an increase in interest in media coaching courses for architecture firms and interior design consultancies.
As specialists in media training courses for architects we help our course participants to understand what journalists are looking for and what they’re not interested in. We work with participants to help them to hone their messages, to identify great stories and anecdotes and to ensure that they gain more control over the interview. This means that when they see the report on Channel Four, in The Financial Times on Dezeen or on a blogger’s site they’re much more likely to produce something that promotes their firm and their particular skills.
Here are some tips to help architects to deliver good media interviews:
- Tell stories
The media loves stories. It’s no coincidence that “a story” is what we call a report that we’re writing or producing. Stories illustrate a point and engage with the audience. Think about how many times in your daily life you’ll tell a story. When you get home from work and your family, friends or flatmates ask about your day you’ll relate some anecdotes. The subject might be funny, annoying or just plain weird but they’re all stories.
If someone asks you to explain something, you’ll almost certainly use a phrase such as “For instance…” or “Just imagine…” or “Say…”
During our media coaching courses for architects and interior designers we help them to identify stories that explain and prove the points they’re making. Whether it’s about designing a kitchen, handling the existing architectural canvas or making the most of a particular space we show our course participants how to paint word pictures for their readers, listeners and viewers.
Human stories work best of course. As an architect or interior designer, you might be all about creating beautiful spaces and stunning buildings, but you always bear in mind that it’s people who will inhabit these places.
- Think about your language
We talk about the “architectural canvas” but the question is – will that phrase mean something to the audience? A reader of Architectural Digest might understand it but what about the viewer of a daytime TV show? Even if your audience does understand a piece of jargon it distances them from you – you’re literally not speaking their language.
What might work for one outlet will jar with another. Very often a print journalist will be forced to translate – and you might not like their translation. Do it yourself and you have much more control over the final coverage.
That’s why during our media training workshops for architects we challenge them on the language they use and help them to think about jargon and terminology so that they can really connect with the people that they’re talking to. Finding a way of describing a technical feature, a process or an architectural device that is easily accessible to any audience is essential.
- Give advice
Why do we read an article or a blog? What makes us give up minutes of our precious time to watch a video? Entertainment, yes. But it’s also about learning something useful. Consuming the media is a very selfish process. We’re not thinking about our family or friends – we’re just asking ourselves “What’s in it for me?”
In other words, what will I learn that will make my life better, that will make me richer, cleverer, healthier or more fun and interesting at that dinner party tonight? Whether the feature is about health, property, finance, travel or anything else the journalist will be looking to answer that question: “What benefit does it bring me?”
That means that we love interviewees who can give our audiences practical advice to make their lives better. Think about how often in an interior design article you see a “Get the Look section”. Five top tips or three things that you can do also tap into that desire for useful information. So, offer advice to your audience through the journalist and you’ll get more coverage than the competition.
- Stick to your key message
“I didn’t expect you to ask me about planning regulations in the area,” one of the participants on one of our media training courses for architects. In fact, she said some interesting things about this vexed subject that ended up being the focus of the role press interview we’d just carried out. We made sure that with the next practice interview she kept to her own agenda.
Journalists have no boundaries. We’ll ask anyone anything, whatever comes into our minds. And, if the interviewee says something newsworthy, even if it has little or nothing to do with what we agreed to talk about, that’ll be what we report.
When we work with the Comms teams of architectural firms and others, we help their colleagues who are doing interviews to stay on message. We have a range of techniques to enable you to maintain control of the agenda so that you’re more likely to see the kind of coverage that works for you.
- Take the initiative and inspire your audience
Enthusiasm! We journalists love it. Passion and a love of your work will come through, even during a print interview. Sometimes, when we start our media coaching for architects, they simply answer our media trainer/journalists’ questions briefly and say no more. “That’s how I would talk to a planning department,” one senior architect explained to us. “I don’t want to say anything that might get me into trouble.
We can completely understand that, we assured him, and it’s essential to stay on message so that you don’t end up giving away something that you’d regret. However, this is also your opportunity. Take the initiative here. Hit the ground running with your first answer. Introduce ideas and stories that work for you rather than simply looking to acquit yourself and get the interview over with. Bring in some stories. Use the journalist’s questions as prompts to allow you to say what you want to say.
This final point is important. You’re not just picking stuff out of the air – as we stress in our media training courses for architects, you’re only saying what you’ve planned and prepared to say with your colleagues and your Comms team.
Just like an architectural project, a media interview requires, planning, preparation and solid foundations.
To find out how you can enrol on one of our media training courses or learn more about how to manage journalists as an architect, contact us on 0800 1777080 or submit a contact form here with your query and we’ll get back to you.