Prep Work Key to a Good Interview

“I wasn’t worried because I get to approve my quotes.”

“I thought she knew the details of my research. I didn’t know I would have to explain it to her.”

“I planned to use notes, but I was told I couldn’t.”

These are a few comments I’ve heard through the years when individuals with whom I’ve worked have been interviewed by reporters. Usually, the individuals came to me for guidance after having done the interview.

Inside Edition

Prep work is key to a successful media interview. 

As someone who works in media relations, I’ve learned that the most important part of a media interview is the prep work. If you are fortunate to work somewhere that has a media relations person, ask them to help prepare you for the interview. If you are new to the industry or need a refresher, these tips will get you started.

Research the reporter and outlet. What articles has the reporter written or broadcast? What is the tone? I also check their Twitter feed to say what they are saying about issues and to see what their interests are.

Prepare talking points. What are the two to three main points you want to share? Too often experts ramble because they are passionate about their research and have so much they want to share. Reporters, though, don’t have unlimited time for the interview or for the story. It’s in your best interest to select the key points and provide supporting details.

Know the rules. When you speak with a reporter, everything is “on the record,” meaning reporters will use it in their story. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see in print. You also won’t get to see or review the story or broadcast in advance so don’t ask to do so.

Anticipate tough questions. Is there a downside to your story? If yes, be prepared to address it, if asked. If a reporter asks about an issue within your company that it would not be appropriate for you to address, refer the reporter to the office that should respond.

Practice. You don’t have to spend hours rehearsing your answers. You do want to know your information and doing at least one practice run with a colleague who acts as the reporter will help prepare you for the interview. However, don’t practice too much as you don’t want your interview to be scripted.

Now you are ready for your interview.

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Are You Ready for Summer?

The first day of summer is tomorrow. Are you ready?

Summer days should be lazy and unstructured. I love that notion. In fact, I try to follow a saying by Annie Lamott:

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I fill my days off with pool time, bike rides and beach reads.

However, I also find that I need some structure otherwise I may not achieve anything. I particularly like this list from Online Colleges, which offers 100 productive ways to spend your summer vacation. Their recommendations include to take an education vacation, learn a new language or visit museums.

One of my favorite suggestions is from a 2013 article by Les McKeown who suggested doing something “It’s never the right time for.” I have several things that fit the description and I’ve now added them to my summer list with incremental deadlines. I already feel better knowing they might get done this summer.

Also on my list this summer:

#WalkOn: It’s a hashtag I used when I was consistently walking 10,000 steps a day. My stepping significantly decreased due to a knee injury, but I’m now building back up. I’m tracking my steps from Memorial Day to Labor Day, although instead of 1 million steps my goal is 750,000 steps. If you’re on Fitbit, let’s challenge each other and #WalkOn.

Writing books: I’m finishing my book of travel essays, and will spend the summer reaching out to agents and editors. I’m also going to pick up my mystery (it’s about time!) and resume writing it. And I’ll attend meetings of James River Writers and Sisters in Crime. Their programming helps me grow my skills and become a better writer.

Exploration: My vacation won’t happen until late in the year, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take some time to explore in my backyard. It’s always fun to visit a farmer’s market and see what is in season. Two area attractions have new exhibitions that I plan to see. And I’ll check out some new restaurants with friends.

Of course, the beauty of summer is that you can always toss your list and do nothing!

Fake News and How to Combat It

We may think fake news is something new, but it’s not.

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Tom Mullen, director of public affairs journalism at the University of Richmond and a former newspaper reporter, discusses fake news. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

“Fake news has existed as long as journalism has been around,” said Tom Mullen, director of public affairs journalism at the University of Richmond and a former newspaper reporter.

He cited an 1835 article in the New York Sun that said there is life on the moon. He pointed out that Joseph Pulitzer said, “You supply the pictures, I’ll supply the war.”

Speaking to Virginia Professional Communicators, Mullen noted that presidents and military leaders use the fake news term to push back against bad news. “When leaders use propaganda, it means they can’t persuade you with the truth,” he said. “That is detrimental to democracy.”

He challenged the notion of alternative facts. “A fact is a fact,” he said. However, while news is verifiable, people can have interpretations, he noted.

Unfortunately, social media is becoming the primary source of news, and that is not news, Mullen said. Stories on social media are easy to manipulate and to spread without verification. Stories that are shocking, surprising or play on emotions are the most easily spread.

“Journalism gives oxygen to democracy,”

Tom Mullen

To determine if a story is fake or real, Mullen said to consider the following:

  • What is the source?
  • How credible is the source?
  • What are other sources saying about the information?
  • When was the Twitter account launched?
  • How is the grammar?

“Grammar matters,” Mullen said. “You should thank your English teacher. Bots are always a little off.”

He also recommended holding politicians accountable. “Criticizing the press is part of a robust discussion, demonizing journalism and journalists is not.”

Individuals should not post, Tweet or spread anything that they are not certain is true, he added.

Another way to combat fake news is to support good local journalism.

“Journalism gives oxygen to democracy,” Mullen said.

He stressed that good journalism –

  • Gives people the information they need to make decisions about their lives
  • Provides an essential civic service
  • Is a tool of social justice by helping to give readers and viewers the information they need to correct injustices

Ultimately, we are each and all responsible for not spreading fake news.