video camera in media interview

A media interview can be a nerve-wracking experience for even the most experienced business people. However, confidence comes from careful preparation. The worst interviews generally occur when the interviewee is not comfortable because they have not prepared enough or are too confident in their own abilities, and feel they do not need to prepare.

This blog provides our top tips to ensure you prepare for a media interview.

  1. Get your messaging straight

What do you really want to get across through this interview? If you are totally clear about the purpose of the interview when you start, you are likely to give a much better account of yourself. Prepare no more than three messages and work out how you can bring them to life.

Many media trainers split messages into three parts

  • Principle – the main point of the message
  • Proof – how you substantiate what you are saying (facts, data, case studies, examples)
  • Personalisation – how can you relate the message to the audience and bring the facts to life

Craft some soundbite-length, quotable comments

No interviewer wants their subject to ramble on. So, without writing yourself a script, think through how you can communicate those messages in short, pithy phrases and soundbites.

Determine the scope of the interview

Decide whether you want to limit the media interview to the specific trigger news or use it as a springboard to discuss a ‘bigger picture’ story. Does this news illustrate that the company’s strategy has taken a large step forward? If so, part of your messaging will be to highlight this progress within the strategic context.

Wherever possible, you or your communications team should agree the scope of the interview with the journalist in advance. If there are potential avenues you cannot talk about (e.g. for commercial or legal reasons), make sure you have clarified this with the journalist before you start. The best interviews are when both parties are agreed on the direction of travel.

Think through the difficult questions and decide on a response

Point 3 aside, don’t expect an easy ride, even by your most supportive trade publication. This is an interview by a professional journalist or blogger, not an advertorial (paid for editorial), so respect the journalist’s need to ask wider questions within reason. Are there industry issues which you might get asked about? How is your company performing in other areas? Work with colleagues to agree your response in advance.

Don’t exceed your competence

If the journalist asks something which is outside your area of competence, feel free to respond politely that you do not have any information on that topic, but you will ask the people who do for a response. Do not be tempted to talk about things you are neither capable nor authorised to address on behalf of the company. If you promise a subsequent response, make sure you deliver.

Get your key points in early

Everyone is busy, including journalists. We all tend to remember best the things we hear first, while we are fully engaged with whoever is speaking to us. If you ramble on and on, the journalist may not even play back the later comments in the interview.

Do not go off message at the end

As the media interview draws to a close and you think the mike is off, it can be tempting to drop your guard. If you think the interview has gone well, it’s too easy to relax too soon. Do not bring attention to things that do not relate to the specifics of the interview. Some journalists call it the ‘elevator question’. This is a seemingly innocent question as you are walking them to the door after the interview finishes. Don’t fall for it: everything you say to a journalist is fair game for an article.

What visuals do you have to illustrate the piece?

Ensure you can supply appropriate, high quality images to illustrate the published interview. These days, many publishers augment their interviews with short web videos as well. Can you offer the journalist some video footage or give them the opportunity to film a short section on your production, maybe undertake part of the interview itself on video? All these elements make the finished product more powerful. They make the piece much more searchable on the web, meaning more of your target audience is likely to find it.

These tips provide will provide businesses with the basics to prepare for a media interview. If you would like to investigate media relations in more depth, check out our communications training page or contact 360 integrated PR to arrange a meeting.