The British fascination with homes continues and, if the government really does build the hundreds of thousands of new houses and flats that it has promised to build, then media interest in this area will grow.
We provide media training for architects and interior designers and during our workshops we help them to do media interviews. We love working with architects because they’re passionate about what they do and they create something tangible. Given that all of our media trainers are also working journalists and so they know what journalists are looking for when interviewing someone from an architecture practice. They also know from their experience how architects can do a good media interview.
Here are five tips for any architect doing an interview with a journalist:
1. Think about the story that you want to see on the page or on the screen. Architects, like other interviewees, often believe that the journalist should be in charge of the interview. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. As reporters we love it when the person we’re talking to – who is, after all, the expert – takes the initiative and tells us what’s going on, what’s new and exciting and what our audience should be doing or thinking. Have your key message in mind and make sure that you say it early and repeat it. In our media training courses we look at what makes a story so that our course participants know how to make sure that what they say will tick the newsworthiness boxes.
2. Focus on the audience. When we’re doing media coaching sessions for architects’ firms, we show them how to ensure that they’re thinking about the audience. If you’re doing an interview with a trade publication, for instance, your messages and your language will be very different to those that are right for an interview with the local newspaper. Local journalists will be focussing on affordability and the proximity of shops, transport and other amenities rather than the technical details of the build. It’s the same with language. “Skin”, “spatial composition” and “building envelope” might work for Architects’ Journal or Dezeen but they’ll mean nothing to the readers of the Watford Observer or the Lancashire Telegraph. Even if your local media audience do decipher your meaning the danger is that you’ve alienated them – you’re literally not speaking their language.
Architects doing media interviews – use stories
3. Use some examples. The other key piece of advice for architects doing interviews with journalists is to use examples. Stories are the meat and drink of journalism – it’s no coincidence that we call the articles that we’re working on “stories.” These essentials of human communication illustrate your ideas and they prove your points.
You might, for example, want to tell us that your project is environmentally friendly. Well you would say that, wouldn’t you, will be the reaction of the journalist. However, include some examples of the little techniques, gadgets and cutting edge technology that you’ve included and you’re going to be much more persuasive. You’ve given us evidence and by describing these elements we can literally see what you mean.
There might be other stories too. Where did the inspiration for a particular feature or element of the design come from? Was it when you visited a stunning ancient monument? Or when you were doing the washing up? Perhaps the most junior member of the team came up with a great idea. What were the moments of inspiration – and of near despair? Alongside your creative vision and your expert management of the project, those little human anecdotes – the kind that you might tell your family at home or your friends in the pub – are what journalists want to hear.
4. Offer them imagery, photos, renditions. The more imagery you can offer the better. The quantity, variety and quality of the pictures that an interviewee can offer will frequently dictate how much coverage they get in the final piece. One of our media trainer/journalists remembers doing a piece about family businesses for The Sunday Times. Among the half dozen companies he profiled for the article it was a fruit and veg business that got the most column inches, even though it didn’t have the most amazing story to tell. Why? Because it was wonderfully visual – more so than the other businesses that were featured.
TV is all about pictures so the photo-opps that you can arrange are obviously essential here, but what about radio? Our tips for architects doing media interviews include advice here. As we say, the best pictures are on radio because they’re in the head of the listener and so think about those examples and verbal pictures that you can paint. Real life imagery also works these days on radio, too, because most programmes will want to put pictures on their websites and social media accounts.
More advice for architects doing interviews
5. Identify any difficult questions – and have answers ready for them. It’s not that journalists are out to trip you up or make you look stupid. Honestly, we’re not. We just want a good story from you. But getting that story might include asking for your opinion on a controversial subject, such as cladding or a local planning dispute on your area?
Similarly, we need to ask the questions that our audience will be asking. That’s why we sometimes play devil’s advocate. You would say that wouldn’t you? But what about the evidence against your point of view? Other people disagree with you on that issue, perhaps. Identify these tricky areas before doing an interview and make sure that you’ve got answers for them. Then, if they come up you can give your answer – or explain that it’s not something that you can comment on – and move back onto your key messages.
In our media training courses we offer some tried and trusted techniques which our participants find useful when it comes to handling difficult questions and getting back on to their own agenda. That way architects doing media interviews can get the positive coverage that they’re looking for.