The bridging technique is a crucial part of media training and an essential tool to master to control an interview. It is the ability for the interviewee to steer the conversation from any question that takes them away from their goal during the interview. This could be a negative or unhelpful question, or simply a question that doesn’t enable the interviewee to share information that may be more valuable to the reporter.
It’s important to understand that journalists don’t always know what questions they need to ask to get the best story from you. So, by helping bring their attention to an interesting fact they can hone in on what might be a better story. And if they don’t, at least you know you gave it your best shot.
Once you know what the bridging technique is, you’ll be able to spot it done badly often. Politicians are often a great example of how not to do it.
The key to bridging successfully is to acknowledge the question, answer it matter of factly and then build a bridge to where you want to go. For example, “That’s interesting, BUT what’s most important to remember here is that…” or “Yes, I’ve heard that, BUT what we’re noticing at the moment is …”. Then reinstate your key message(s) or shift to a topic the journalist isn’t yet focused on and share your knowledge/insights.
But, don’t forget the most important aspect of the technique is to make sure you acknowledge or succinctly answer the question FIRST before you build a bridge to where you want to go.
Media training is more an art rather than a science and therefore different tactics work for different people, which is why it’s important to practice mock interviews before you enter a real one.
The benefit of media training with an experienced practicing journalist and PR expert is that real world scenarios you’ll likely encounter can be rehearsed and messages refined to ensure you’re prepared to maximise the potential of every interview secured.
If there’s one question I’m constantly asked it’s “How do we pitch so that our client/product/story gets coverage?”
Start by looking at what the journalist you want to pitch to writes, who they write for and make your pitch relevant.
As my friend Simon puts it:
READ THE PUBLICATIONS YOU PITCH TO BEFORE YOU PITCH TO THEM!
MY CLIENT PARTICIPATES IN THE MARKET YOU ARE WRITING ABOUTî IS NOT A PITCH
Secondly, you can structure your pitch in a way that makes it easy for me/another reporter to make a decision.
Here’s what doesn’t work: an email with a one liner that says something like “attached is the latest press release from Client X who has a new product/service” and all the information is buried in an attached PDF or Word document.
Here’s what will work.
1 – Use the term “Press release” or “Media Release” in the subject line of the email. That makes it easier for the reporter (or me personally) to find your message.
2 – Make sure the subject line says who the company and product/service is.
These first two tips are incredibly important. I get over 100 messages on a quiet day so I don’t often get to read much beyond the subject. It’s like “Jerry Maguire” – you have to get me at “Hello”.
3 – A single paragraph (less than 100 words) explaining why whatever you’re bringing to my attention is special. For example, a release telling me that Client X has a new SaaS product is not useful – lots of companies have a SaaS product. Telling me that Company X’s new SaaS product offers a cheaper pricing model that can flexibly change as a client grows might be more interesting. The other benefit of this is is that I might not need that release for a couple of months. Having good content in the body of the email makes it easier to find.
4 – Think of the headline and lead. For something to be a story it needs a headline and a lead (a short, 10-15 word opening line). If you can’t come up with one then you may need to rethink your pitch.
5 – Have images available. Better yet, provide a link to high-res images (don’t attach 20MB images!) using services like WeTransfer or folder sharing using Dropbox, Box.net, OneDrive or Google Drive.
6 – Make sure your email can be easily read on a mobile device. If I have to zoom or scroll to read it, you’ve made it too hard. Many journalists catch up on email during odd moments, like when standing in line or grabbing some lunch. That means reading on a smartphone.
7 – If you have a press release, don’t send an email saying “See attached release” or similar. If your client insists on sending a nicely formatted PDF press release, copy and paste the text into the body of the email. If I need the “pretty stuff” I’ll open it. But if all you send is an attachment with a “please read” – i’ll ignore it.
8 – Email is reliable. Please don’t feel compelled to call me to check if the email arrived.
9 – Check my LinkedIn profile. I’m pretty good at keeping it up to date with what publications I’m currently writing for. I get a lot of pitches for magazines I stopped writing for years ago. Pitching me ideas and stories for publications I don’t write for is a waste of all our time.
10 – Make sure spokespeople are actually available and that the URLs in your release are correct.
Today on Media Files, a podcast about the major themes and issues in the media, we’re looking at the future newsroom.
We often hear about the doom and gloom of established media companies as they shed staff and revenues, but is there hope for journalism and a new style of digital newsroom? We ask of the man with an ambitious mission to launch 100 media start-ups in three years: what does the future newsroom look like?
Our guest is co-founder and CEO of Splice Media, Alan Soon. Based in Singapore, Alan is a former journalist and producer at Yahoo, CNBC, Bloomberg and Kyodo News, and is promising a million dollars to give to start-ups to transform media in Asia.
We talked about:
• Challenges and opportunities for start-ups
• His pledge to launch 100 digital media start-ups in Asia over three years with a $1 million fund – and where the money comes from
• Why he thinks Asia lacks a robust ecosystem around media start-ups.
• How to build communities around membership and make a media start-up financially sustainable.
• Media trends and innovations that he expects we will see more of in the future.
• How limiting the different regulatory environments and political norms such as regard for freedom of expression may be in parts of Asia.
And much, much more.
Media Files is produced by a team of journalists and academics who have spent decades working in and reporting on the media industry. They’re passionate about sharing their understanding of the media landscape, especially how journalists operate, how media policy is changing, and how commercial manoeuvres and digital disruption are affecting the kinds of media and journalism we consume.
Media Files will be out every month, with occasional off-schedule episodes released when we’ve got fresh analysis we can’t wait to share with you. To make sure you don’t miss an episode, find us and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, in Pocket Casts or wherever you find your podcasts. And while you’re there, please rate and review us – it really helps others to find us.
You can find more podcast episodes from The Conversation here.
Recorded at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism. Producer: Andy Hazel. Production assistance Gavin Nebauer.
Theme music by Susie Wilkins.
Andrea Carson, Incoming Associate Professor at LaTrobe University. Former Lecturer, Political Science, School of Social and Political Sciences; Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne and Andrew Dodd, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne