5 Steps to Prepare for a Media Interview

Capture5I 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.

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Media Tips from Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’

Gone Girl coverI just finished reading a riveting suspense book called Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. One of the characters has to be prepped for a media interview. The section resonated with me because of all of the media interviews I had to give as a spokesperson. In my current role, I do the same, just not as frequently, so I thought I’d brush up some on how to give a successful interview.

Practice: Don’t think you can meet with a reporter (either print or video/digital) and expect to easily answer questions and succeed in the interview. In advance, develop a list of questions you expect will be asked. Then find someone to ask those questions of you and answer them out loud. That way you can determine how far off the mark you are and what you might not have an answer to. Don’t over practice, though, as you don’t want to come across as too polished.

Answer the question and stop: A common mistake is for an interviewee to keep speaking to fill silence or gaps. Answer the question the reporter asked and then stop. If there is silence, don’t fill it. The reporter will quickly ask another question, especially if it’s for television, because the reporter won’t want silence. If you keep talking, you are likely to say more than you had planned to share.

Be truthful: If the topic is difficult, you need to answer honestly. If you don’t, the reporter – and subsequently the audience – will know it. You will continue to be hounded until the truth comes out. If you don’t want to talk about a situation, then don’t agree to the interview. But be aware that a reporter will find someone else to discuss it, and that person’s version may be even less flattering.

The character in Gone Girl prepped for the interviews and did well. If you follow these tips, you will, too.

Tweeting Your Way to Media Placements

Twitter is all about following, and when it comes right down to it, that’s what media relations is about – getting someone to follow you, your company, your product so that, ultimately, they will write about it.

Twitter offers some great media relations tactics.

1) Follow journalists, bloggers and influencers. You’ll learn what they are writing about and what is of interest to them.

2) Showcase your expertise. Once you learn in what the journalists, bloggers and influencers are interested, you can showcase your expertise. We did that at my organization and landed one of our vice presidents on a blog radio segment. It gave the person exposure in a fairly benign setting, provided the blogger with an expert and gave us a great Google search hit.

3) Respond to requests. If you’re on Twitter and someone asks for information, and you can provide it, do so. It’s the same as when a reporter calls you on the phone. Same idea, different technology.

4) Write good headlines. When you’re on Twitter you’re limited to 140 characters. Before long you’ll find that the headlines you are writing are shorter, crisper, edgier.