“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.
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.