Media interviews can be a PR nightmare. Whether on-the-spot or planned, even the most seasoned CEO may fall back on providing off-the-cuff answers and hoping for the best. But that’s not a strategy; it’s a recipe for disaster. Using the sandwich method, you will create a compelling message that will make any journalist take notice and get your story covered the way you want.
Every story needs an angle
It’s easy to mistake a media interview for a conversation, but treat it like one and the message you spent so much time crafting will never be heard. You can’t hope to be saved by a good sound bite or the journalist liking you. You need to make it happen because interviews are opportunities to get your message out there.
I’ve heard many CEOs say that they just want to be polite and answer the questions, and the result is always an unremarkable interview. It’s a lost opportunity for your company and you may never get that chance again. The media wants an angle or a lead that hooks their audience, and it’s your job to provide it. If you can’t, the journalist will keep asking questions until they find an angle they like, which probably isn’t the one you want.
So make it easy for them. Have your angle ready and take control of your story.
Journalists today are overworked, so it’s likely that the journalist who interviews you is only marginally interested in you and your subject. To make sure they take in your message, you need to get it across using repetition and impact.
The best way is to make a sandwich.
What is the sandwich?
The sandwich is a proven method for getting your message across easily and clearly. It’s a straightforward interview technique, and I teach it to all my clients, who’ve had great results from using it.
Like a sandwich, this technique has three parts: the filling and the two pieces of bread on either side.
- Bread – Deliver your message or news angle
- Filling – Illustrate your message with a story, sound bites or statistics
- Bread – Deliver the same message or news angle again
Your message holds the sandwich together, and it’s the same on each side. The filling is what you need to consider. The example that fills your message should be substantial enough to satisfy a hungry journalist and their audience and leave them content. Too little substance and they’ll want more. Too much and the sandwich could fall apart. You only have one sandwich so you need to make it count.
This method might sound complicated, but don’t worry. Once you know how to make one, you’ll be sandwiching all the time.
Here’s an example of a great media sandwich:
The Apollo Road Fire
During the Great Ocean Road fires of 2015, Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley was interviewed by ABC’s Jon Faine. Jon repeatedly asked why the fires hadn’t been put out yet. He kept asking Craig the same question until Craig said this:
This is a big fire and extremely difficult to put out, let me explain why. The trees in this forest are old, and the fire is getting into the root system. It’s taking three to four water bomber dumps just to put out one tree, Jon, and the forest has tens of thousands of trees. That’s why it’s taking so long to put out this fire.
The result? Jon stopped asking and moved on to another topic.
Craig’s response is a great example of the sandwich method at work. It’s easy to identify each element in his answer. Let’s break it down:
This is a big fire and extremely difficult to put out, let me explain why.
The trees in this forest are old, and the fire is getting into the root system. It’s taking three to four water bomber dumps just to put out one tree, Jon, and the forest has tens of thousands of trees.
That’s why it’s taking so long to put out this fire.
If Craig had just said, ‘there’s a lot of trees’ or ‘it’s not that simple’, then Jon would have followed up with more and more questions until he got a story out of it. When a journalist starts asking the same question over and over, it’s because you haven’t given a convincing answer or a useful angle.
By explaining his message using a clear example, Craig’s angle became the one Jon’s listeners heard, and that’s the goal: answer the question so well that you get your message across and halt the questioning.
The sandwich is a simple method that can be used on the spot if you find yourself in a sudden interview, but like all sandwiches, the best ones are prepared with the right ingredients.
So the next time you’re interviewed, sandwich your story and see your message presented the way you intended.
Use this method?
Tell us below in the comments section.
Want to get your staff media-ready?
We provide training led by experienced journalist Tony Nicholls, who has covered international stories and worked for many of Australia’s major news networks. Find out more about the types of training we offer here: https://goodtalent.com.au/our-services/media-training.
Founder and Director of Good Talent Media