Six Tips for Nailing Your Media Interview

Part of our job as PR professionals isn’t just to secure interviews for our clients; it’s to prepare them for those interviews as well. Even for the most seasoned executive a media interview can be daunting — and for a novice it can be down right scary.

While we try to arm our clients in advance with as much knowledge as possible about what the interview will be like, including briefing sheets that touch on the kinds of questions spokespeople can expect and key talking points they should be sure to bring up, we just can’t always predict exactly how an interview will go. What if the reporter asks an off topic question? What if the reporter keeps pushing on an angle you don’t want to discuss?

Luckily, there are ways that you, the interviewee, can take control of the interview and make sure you get your message across. Here are a few tips.

  • Come prepared. It’s important to know not only what was pitched to the reporter but what message you want to get across. Are you launching a new product? Make a list for yourself of three key points you want to be sure to hit upon. Be sure to include key differentiating points, including how your offering is different than your competitors’ solutions. Also be sure to address the market for your product or service by discussing the problems it solves.
  • Practice. It’s uncommon, but not completely unheard of, for reporters to share their questions in advance. If you are so lucky as to have an interview where the questions have been shared, practice how you’ll answer them. How you explain things internally to your team may not be the same message you want to convey to an external audience.
  • Drop the jargon. A quick and easy way to turn a reporter off is to answer their questions with marketing language. If what you’re saying to the reporter is just a bunch of marketing and keywords it’s likely going to fall on deaf ears. Talk to the reporter and describe your business/product/service as you would to your neighbor. After all, your neighbor just might be the person reading the final article, and if it’s filled with buzzwords and marketing lingo they may walk away without a clue about what you do.
  • Stay on track. Most reporters aren’t out to get you, but they can use what you say against you. Knowing what you want to say can help you stay on track and keep the conversation about the original intended topic.
  • Don’t fall for “off the record.” It doesn’t matter how nice a reporter may seem — there’s simply no such thing. As far as a reporter is concerned, everything you say is fair game. So don’t say anything you do not want to see end up in a story.
  • Learn how to “bridge.” If you’ve ever seen a politician giving an interview then you should recognize this technique – they have it down! Bridging allows you to deflect any attempts to derail your message – it creates a transition from the question back to your message.  Some common bridging phrases include:
    • “What we’re focused on is…”
    • “That’s a great question, but the real issue is…”
    • “It’s important to remember that…”

While there certainly are investigative reporters out there who may be out to get you, the majority of reporters are just trying to get the facts and shape a story that will resonate with their readers. These few tips above are only the tip of the iceberg.