I spend my days responding to media inquiries and prepping individuals for media interviews. Having done this for more years than I care to admit, I’ve learned a few things. Here are five of my top tips to prepare for an interview:
Know the angle of the article before you agree to the interview. I never give an interview or arrange for someone else to be interviewed unless I know the topic. If it’s related to a crisis, I already know it’s going to be slightly hostile, and I plan accordingly. But even if it’s completely cordial, it’s important to know the focus. And, if possible, ask for the questions in advance.
Collect background information. I always find out about the news outlet, as well as the reporter. This includes looking at recent stories, finding out what makes the reporter tick and finding out how stories are handled by the outlet.
Prepare your answers. Whether the reporter provides questions in advance or not, you should always develop your own list of anticipated questions – both the good and bad – and determine your answers. What are the main points you want to make. When the story runs, what is the one point you want to get across? If you anticipate some tough questions, how can you pivot to the points you want to make?
Provide background on your organization. Also, be willing to provide background on your organization or your subject matter. Don’t assume the reporter has had time to conduct the necessary research. If you provide this information, not only do you make your organization look good, you make the reporter look good.
Conduct a dry run. Interviews are not easy. Schedule time to have someone play the role of reporter and ask you questions. Then practice giving your answers. You don’t want to over rehearse, but you do want to be comfortable answering the questions.