Talking to the media can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. If the interview doesn’t go well, there’s no guarantee the journalist will use it. To ensure everything goes smoothly once you land that interview, keep in mind the following guidelines for interacting with the media.
Journalists work with strict deadlines and editorial requirements, and it’s not uncommon for a story’s deadline to be pushed forward by an editor. To secure the interview, you will need to work with the journalist’s scheduling needs. Be prepared to make a last-minute call or appearance, and always respond promptly. If a journalist can’t get in touch with you easily, they will move on to the next opportunity.
Understand that the purpose of the interview is for you to provide value to the journalist and their audience. Unless it’s a company profile or similar type of piece, it’s not the time or place to shout your brand message. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about messaging, or how your answers will reflect on your company expertise and values. If you know the topic will be sensitive or political in nature, consider what you are willing to talk about, what you are not, and how you will gracefully bow out of any questions you don’t want to answer. Keep in mind that nothing is off the record — so with any interview, you want to remain in full control of your answers while still being helpful, and without being superficial.
Preparing for the Interview
You should have a general idea about the interview or article topic beforehand, but if you don’t, be sure to ask the journalist so that you can prepare. Try to anticipate what the questions will be and how you will answer them, and take some time to think about how your answers will fit into the journalist’s piece. Prepare a few speaking points that are in line with the topic, and do some research on the media outlet, reporter and their audience, so you can factor those interests into your responses. If you’re preparing for a phone interview, consider keeping a cheat sheet for the phone call that outlines your key points.
If you’re not a seasoned public speaker, consider taking some time to practice answering questions with a friend or colleague. Practice answering some of the more difficult questions you anticipate, and ask your partner to ask you some surprise questions as well. Skillful speakers keep their responses straightforward and concise, and use personal stories to illustrate their points. Your partner will be able to help you identify any improvement areas in your speaking, such as rambling or lack of clarity.
During the Interview
Always think before you speak, and ask for clarification if you do not fully understand a question. Remember that it’s okay to ask the journalist questions or pause before you answer — interviews are a conversation, not a debate. Use everyday language instead of industry jargon, and be honest if you don’t know the answer to a question. As we mentioned above, try to keep your answers succinct and use stories to illustrate your points.
After the Interview
Don’t forget to ask the journalist when and where the story will run. Be sure to follow up promptly if you have promised to send the reporter more information after the interview. When the story runs, consider following up with a brief note thanking them and letting them know you’re available for future inquiries.
Interested in more tips or have a question? Feel free to reach out to us @bitesizepr!