Interviews with the media look fun and when done right can be hugely beneficial. A good media interview looks easy but in reality there is a lot of work that goes into conducting a successful interview.
Securing and interview takes a lot of work and expertise. Once the media interview has been secured, it doesn’t mean that the work is done. On the contrary, once the media interview is secured the hard work of preparing for the interview begins.
I can’t tell you how many times over the coarse of my career I’ve seen somebody be excited for an interview, think they can do it no problem and then when the moment comes they freeze. Most often this happens when it’s a broadcast interview and a microphone is put in their face or the cameras turn on. It’s normal, but can be avoided by following a few simple steps.
It’s also fairly common for people to forget in the moment things they want to be sure and say or include as part of an interview. Everybody has probably experienced this one time or another. If not in a media interview then in a job interview where you walk out of the interview and start thinking about or remembering things you wanted to be sure and mention but forgo to in the heat of the moment.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can do before an interview to prepare and make the most of the opportunity, including:
- Research the publication. Know what the outlet covers and its format or style. Doing this will help you get a feel for how the media interview will go. It will also help you determine what messages to share and which will be most relevant to the outlets target audience.
- Research the reporter. Read some past stories or related content to get an idea of the reporter’s style. Knowing beforehand a writing style can help you shape your responses and understand the prior level of knowledge or expertise the reporter does or does not have.
- Know what you want to talk about. Decide what are the most important messages you want to convey. What does the reporter need to know in order to understand what your company does or the benefits your product or service provides. Don’t go into an interview expecting the reporter to have or know all the topics or to be an expert in your industry. If you can educate them and help them understand the facts, data and trends you’ll become a valuable resource for them and will build a relationship of trust that will keep them coming back to you for more expertise. A reporter may not ask the exact questions you want to be asked, but you can always steer the conversation in the direction you want by the way you respond to the questions being asked. If a reporter doesn’t ask you the question you want to be asked, respond to the question you want asked or answer the initial question and as part of your answer take the opportunity to basically ask yourself the question you want and answer it.
- Practice. Think of the questions you may be asked and practice answering questions about your company, product or services. You don’t have to memorize the answers, but by practicing you’ll have an idea of what you want to say so when your nerves kick in you’ll be able to fall back on what you practiced. Record yourself, either with the tape recorder on your phone or on video answering the questions and then listen or watch yourself to see how you did. You can do this multiple times until you’re satisfied with your responses.
- Know the top 10 questions you don’t want to be asked. These questions may not come up, but be prepared to answer them just in case. If you prepare in advance and they come up you’ll be better equipped to answer them and won’t come off as surprised or flustered when the questions come up. Your reaction to questions can be incorporated into the story and if your reaction is negative or unpleasant it could play into the story or called out as part of the story.
- Know the competition. I run across this all the time, but every business thinks they don’t have competitors. You may do things differently than others but that doesn’t mean you don’t have competitors. If a reporter thinks you have a competitor, then you have competitors. You should be familiar with them and be able to explain what sets you apart from them. Don’t bad mouth or disparage the competition but be prepared to demonstrate and explain why you’re different. In one instance, I was with the CEO of a client interviewing with the Wall Street Journal in Washington, DC and the reporter asked a question about a competitor, specifically about how my client differentiates themselves from this competitor. The CEO couldn’t explain the differences because he wasn’t even sure exactly what the competitor did. Suddenly the interview turned to trying to discover why he didn’t know the competitor and what they did.
- Be on time. Nothing screams indifference more than not showing up on time. The reporter is giving of his or her precious time to talk to you. Return the favor by being on time and keeping to the agreed upon schedule. I tell clients all the time if a reporter is late that’s one thing and we’ll work around it.
- Adopt appropriate posture. Don’t slouch or use the table as leverage to crack your back. This may sound obvious, but in one interview in New York, my client’s CEO sat down and slouched as if being there inconvenienced him. He later used the table as leverage to crack his back as the reporter was asking questions. Doing these types of things is inconsiderate and demonstrates a lack of interest on your part.
- Pay attention. In the same instance referenced in the point above, this same CEO wasn’t paying attention. The company’s Vice President of Marketing was participating in the interview with us and started the interview off by giving some background on the company and the new product we were there to brief the reporter on. When the VP of Marketing turned the time back over to the CEO, he stopped cracking his back and launched into an explanation of the company background. He said virtually the same thing as the VP of Marketing and made it obvious he hadn’t listened to a thing anybody had said. It’s critical that you pay attention to and listen to the interviewer and others involved in the conversation.
- Speak clearly. Be precise. Enunciate your speech so it’s clear and easy for the reporter to understand. Avoid using jargon and hyperbole. Don’t assume that the reporter will know everything you do. Explain what you’re talking about and use simple, easy to understand words. Nobody is going to care if you use big words if the reporter doesn’t understand what you’re saying and as a result doesn’t write about you.
Media interviews are an awesome opportunity to share your expertise and create awareness about you, your company and its products or services. Don’t go into an interview thinking that coverage is in the bag. Prepare and follow these steps and you’ll significantly increase your chances of landing the desired coverage.
Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR. In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.
Author: Jeremy Kartchner | Google+