How to Prepare for a Media Interview
Congratulations! That pitch or press release that you sent out got a nibble from a journalist and now they want to interview you. What now?
PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW
When you get the call for an interview it can be exciting and tempting to make yourself available right away. While it is important to be respectful to the journalist’s time and understand they are likely working under a deadline, you also want to make sure and give yourself time to adequately prepare for the interview. Try to avoid giving “spontaneous” interviews if you’re not ready.
Know your story. What message do you want to tell the reporter?
Decide how candid you want to be in your interview. You should always go into an interview knowing full well how much information you plan to give. For example, what is your company policy on disclosing certain data such as sales numbers or turnover rates?
Know your numbers. If there is data, either internal or supporting data from external sources that backs up your side of the story, make sure that you’re familiar with those numbers and can speak to them. These numbers will serve as evidence to support your points and reporters love data.
Anticipate the questions. Do a quick Google search on the reporter and see what types of stories they typically generate and what they generally ask.
Create talking points. While you always think you may know exactly what you want to say, it helps to write out key points you want to make – especially if you’re able to anticipate some of the questions you’ll be asked. It can be an invaluable exercise in thinking through responses ahead of time so that they come more naturally, and well thought out, in the heat of the moment. *This is just an exercise for thinking through your messaging – do not plan to bring these with you to the interview unless it’s a phone interview.
Think about a few possible bridge phrases you might want to employ should the interviewer veer away from the points you wanted to focus on. Bridges do just as the name implies, they bridge the conversation from the question back to your messaging. Examples include “While ____ is important, don’t forget ____” or “The thing we are focusing on the most is ____” or “That’s a common misperception so I’m glad you brought that up…”
DURING THE INTERVIEW
During the interview, you want to come across as engaging, open, positive, and concise. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Stay focused. Depending on where they are held, interviews can be a little chaotic – for example, TV stations typically have a lot of moving parts and technicians running around. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive and get settled in so that you can properly gather your thoughts before the interview begins.
Think before you speak; take a moment to pause and think through your response before just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. Not too long, though, you don’t want to look like you’re hesitating.
Speak in soundbites and be concise. While your interview may take 20 minutes, if it will ultimately be chopped down to a few quotes or, at best, a few minutes if on television so it’s important to get to the point quickly and effectively. Try to speak in soundbites – it’s helpful for reporters to have a great quote that ties everything up in one statement.
Be positive – no one likes a “Negative Nelly.” Try to be engaging and open during your interview and take any negatives and turn them into positives so that they can best support your messages.
Don’t get too technical. Unless the interview is for a trade publication, it’s important to speak in layman’s terms so that the average reader or viewer can follow along without getting caught in the weeds of technical jargon.
Always be “on.” While the tape recorder may be off, it doesn’t mean it’s time to let loose. Always assume that it’s still recording or that your mic is still hot and watch what you say.
FOR TELEVISION INTERVIEWS
There are a few special considerations if you’re having a television interview. It’s important to dress conservatively and professionally so that the audience is paying attention to what you’re saying rather than what you’re wearing. It’s also best to avoid all black or all white, as well as busy patterns.
You’ll also want to be sure to apply some makeup before appearing on camera, particularly if it’s an in-studio interview. Bright studio lights will distort everyone’s features, as well as make most people sweat more than normal so at the very least, apply powder on your nose, forehead, and face to avoid looking shiny, or oily. This applies for both men and women. If you are bald, be sure to apply some powder to your head as well. Eyeliner and blush also help define features for on camera interviews.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Once your interview is completed thank the reporter and do not ask to see the story before it runs. If you want editorial control then you should pursue advertising rather than public relations.