If a reporter contacts you for an interview, you need to respond quickly or you may miss a great opportunity to promote your company or organization. Most reporters work on tight timelines so if you delay, they will probably interview someone else.
That said, media interviews are tricky and not for the faint of heart. Some people have tried to “wing it” and learn media-interview techniques by trial and error. That’s not recommended. Even seasoned interviewees have been trapped into saying things they later regretted.
Savvy businesspeople prepare for interviews well before the opportunity presents itself, so that they can respond quickly and effectively. Many hire professional media interview trainers or PR consultants to help with this preparation.
Here are some of the techniques I have used to train clients for interviews. The first tips deal with preparing for the interview. The other tips cover the interview itself.
Before the Interview
Prepare. Develop several ways of repeating your basic messages so you can repeat your points without sounding repetitious.
Outline your stories, your examples, your “proof.” Of these, the stories are the most important. We are hard-wired to respond to stories. People remember them, repeat them and learn from them. So have several stories “up your sleeve.”
Find out as much information as you can about the interview, including the name and title of the interviewer; the publication, blog, program or research firm; and the approximate publication or broadcast date.
Research the interviewer and topic. Do an online search for recent articles or reports. It’s important to be up to date. You want to be seen as a source of information.
Determine the questions you think might be asked. Outline your answers in writing.
Practice. Do a mock interview with a professional trainer. It’s one thing to read about interviews; it’s quite another thing to be in the middle of one.
During the Interview
Here are some techniques you can practice during the mock interview.
Think of the interview as a conversation with an important customer or prospect.
Take control of the interview as much as possible. You are the expert and every question is an “invitation” to repeat your messages.
Listen to the whole question. Think about the answer before you speak.
Make your main point(s) early in the interview and repeat them periodically.
Answer briefly, using short words and simple sentences. Illustrate your points with stories and examples.
Outline your answers. (e.g., “I’d like to make two points.”)
Don’t talk “off the record” or say “no comment.”
Above all, don’t let the interviewer trap you into saying something you’ll regret.
Your trainer can help you with these, and many other techniques, to assure that the interview is of great value to your organization.