Updated: Jun 23, 2021
You’ve finally landed that big media interview… Now what?
If you are like most people, you get at a little worried and ask if you can get the questions in advance. But the fact is, most reporters will not oblige this request, and many public relations professionals consider it naïve to ask.
So how do you prepare for your big opportunity? The answer is to have a plan.
The biggest pitfall in media interviews is simply following the reporter rather than having a plan for what you want to say. Think of a dog being walked on a tight leash. He only goes where the walker and leash lead him, missing all of the great spots to stop and sniff along the way. When you hand over the control of an interview, you don’t get to say what you want. If you’ve ever done an interview and been surprised by what the reporter used from what you said, chances are you went in without a plan.
The most important part of a good plan is to have three main points you want to make.
These should be clear, concise ideas that tie-in with your organization’s key messages. Then, no matter what is asked, you answer, but then pull on the leash a little and deliver that main idea before getting back on the reporter’s track.
Know the story angle the reporter is looking for ahead of time.
This is where your PR professional should help you. The reporter isn’t likely to give you exact questions, but they are happy to give you a general idea of what they’re hoping to get from the interview. It makes their job easier. Also ask if the interview is live or taped, and get as much general information as you can, so there are no surprises.
Start and finish the interview with a message – think bookends. Regardless of what the first question is, and it’s bound to be something very broad and general, weave one of your key messages into the answer. This way, one-third of your goal is reached right out of the blocks. Always wrap up with a key point as reporters often use the last thing that was said in an interview. Never give up the opportunity to add one more good point.
If it’s a phone interview, have your key ideas written down and in front of you. Don’t read them word for word; use them as a guide to keep you on track.
Use personal experience and colorful language but keep it short. You probably are doing the interview because you know innately why people should care about this story. Using your own words and experience will get people’s attention. Use a funny or moving example but keep it brief. The average soundbite in broadcast has shrunk to just 9 seconds!
Know the quicksand you could encounter. What is the controversy of the day that you could be pulled into for comment? What is the nugget of dirt on your organization that could be brought up? Know and practice your response to these ahead of time, just in case. If quicksand does come up…
Use the A-T-M Address the quicksand briefly, Tame it and Transition to a Message.
Use transition phrases like “What I’d really like to focus on is…” This type of language can be helpful to make the jump back to your message.
Practice, but not too much. You want to sound genuine and conversational, not like you memorized lines. Try not to use your company name in every other breath. That’s a surefire way for part of your quote to end up on the cutting room floor.
Force a big smile before you start talking. It may feel a little weird, but it can help you relax, bring energy to your voice, and help encourage trust with the audience. Also, make eye contact with the reporter, as also helps viewers trust you. If the interview is a talk-back – with you looking directly into the camera and hearing questions through an ear-piece, rather than talking in the same room with the reporter – pretend you are looking into someone’s eyes. Shifty eyes is a common reaction to a talk-back and can appear unconvincing and nervous.
There is a lot to keep in mind to succeed in having an effective media interview. A good PR professional can help you craft a plan and hone your interview skills. The most successful clients tend to prepare over time and revisit their plan regularly. This can be time very well spent since a good media opportunity will be magnified over and over, with social media sharing, and will often lead to other interview opportunities for your organization.
Remember that a successful media interview is within your reach if you have a plan. So smile, relax, and let the cameras roll. If you follow the steps listed here you have a great chance of acing the interview.
For additional information on creating effective media opportunities, visit 1stdegree.com.