Megan Redzia - 01/27/2022
Delivering a strong media interview is a skill and like most skills, the more you practice, the better you will become. Follow the six steps in this blog post to properly prepare for a media interview.
Media interviews are an opportunity to share your brand’s message with your target audience and build credibility. However, interviews gone wrong put your brand in a negative light and can be hard to bounce back from. With many interviews today taking place remotely, there’s an even greater potential for mistakes. Come on, we’ve all seen Professor Robert Kelly’s unexpected distruption while being interviewed live on BBC News.
If you want your spokespeople to ace an interview, there are some steps we recommend you follow. Here’s how we help get our clients ready for each media interview to guarantee positive coverage.
Steps to Get Ready for a Media Interview
- Understand the Topic and Format – As a thought leader, you likely have a variety of topics you can discuss, but the reporter has a specific one in mind. Make sure you identify what specific subjects the reporter plans to cover in the interview.
It’s also critical to get some more information on the format of the interview and resulting media coverage. This may even determine whether you want to move forward with the interview. Here are some of the questions our media relations team asks when we are setting up media interviews:
- What is the focus of the interview?
- Who else/what other brands are you talking to for this story?
- Will there be other guests on the segment?
- Will the interview be live or recorded? If it is recorded, is it edited?
- How long will the interview be?
- Do Your Homework – Each reporter has a unique style and each media outlet has a different tone. By familiarizing yourself with who is interviewing you, you can anticipate likely questions and decide how you want to frame your answers.
Twitter is a great place to start your research. Follow the reporter you will be speaking with and browse through what they are tweeting and replying to. Then, read some of their articles, watch their TV segments, or listen to their radio show.
- Know Your Key Messages – If you’re conducting a TV or radio interview, you only have 3-5 minutes to get across your key messages and in the edited segment, you could end up with two 15-second soundbites. Even in an interview for a print or digital piece, you need to be prepared to weave your key messages into responses to the reporter’s questions without them sounding forced.
We encourage our clients to only have 2-3 key messages prepared for each interview opportunity. This increases the chance of ensuring your main communication points make it into the story. It also improves the retention level of your target audience, as you do not want to overwhelm them with too much to remember. Key message points should be designed to target the outlet’s specific audience, as well as your overall organizational goals and brand guidelines. Be sure you know those talking points and how to deliver them concisely with supporting facts and examples.
- Anticipate the Hard Balls – It’s acceptable to ask the reporter to send you some questions in advance of the interview that way you can get an idea of what they are planning to cover. However, beyond those questions, you should prepare for the ones you hate to answer. The questions that make your palms sweat.
Your responses to difficult questions should also include Transitional phrases that allow you to move smoothly back to your key messages. In public relations, we call this skill bridging. Always respond to the question that you are asked then use a transitional phrase to make another key point or to redirect the interview back to one of your three key messages. Some examples of bridging phrases include:
- “The key thing to remember is…”
- “Before we move on to another subject, I want to add…”
- “That reminds me of another point…”
- Practice, But Don’t Sound Rehearsed – A reporter will spot a memorized speech immediately. If you don’t believe me, watch this interview blunder. Internalize your messages and responses to anticipated questions, but do not memorize them verbatim. Recording your interview is a great way to practice, so you can listen or watch yourself and analyze your performance.
- Work on Your Body Language – As they say, actions can speak louder than words. Your experts might be able to flawlessly deliver a response to a reporter’s question, but if their body language doesn’t match the message, it could be poorly received.
Some body motions are considered silent signals. For example, did you know that the perceived meaning of crossing your arms is that you are defensive? And rubbing your eyes is a sign of disbelief. Body language can also reinforce positive messages. Open palms show sincerity and honesty, and tilting your head demonstrates interest. Posture and eye contact are also key elements of interview body language that should be practiced.
- Keep an Eye on Current Events – You don’t want to be the company thought leader who sounds tone deaf. This is critical right now when the world is going through so many challenges and changes. Make sure you know what is happening in your industry and across the globe. Take 30 minutes before your interview to check the news and the outlet you will be speaking with to determine if any current events impact the message you want to communicate.
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to media interviews. Reporters and producers are likely to build ongoing relationships with spokespeople who deliver an interview that brings value to their audience. If you want to guarantee your company leaders become a trusted resource to the media they are speaking with, invest the time into proper preparation.
Media Training for Your Spokespeople
Media training is the best way to ensure your spokespeople are ready for interviews in any setting and in any circumstance. In media training, company leaders learn how to prepare for a media interview, dress for success, deliver key messages, anticipate and respond to difficult questions, bridge to talking points and use body language. To learn more about why your spokespeople need media training, read this blog.
At 3E PR, we offer a three-hour comprehensive media training course that helps spokespeople master interviews through a combination of practical instruction and taped mock interviews. If you want to discuss a media training program for your organization, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.