Maximise your next media interview - 5 tips for how to prepare

  • This is a guest post by Jennifer Wasilisin Burns Jennifer Wasilisin Burns of Marketri, our associates in the USA.  The article first appeared on the Marketri blog.

    There's nothing like the value of media coverage to build visibility and credibility for your company's brand or services, but a mishandled interview could cause major damage to your reputation.

    While small to mid-size businesses may not receive media requests all that often or have designated "spokespeople," it is crucial for company leaders and management to be prepared when a media opportunity does arise.  We've all seen amazing interviews where the spokesperson or expert seemed perfectly at ease and provided excellent, well-crafted responses to the interviewer's questions.  You might be thinking, how do they make this look so easy, and how can I do the same?  Not everyone is a natural when it comes to doing media interviews, so check out these tips to prepare.  They're sure to help ease your nerves and calm those stomach butterflies.

    1. Do Your Homework. First, familiarise yourself with the news outlet (publication, television or radio show), as well as the reporter. Understanding the interviewer's background is a must.  Review previous articles they've written or interviews they've conducted, and be aware of the interview format as well as who the audience is. Before you can properly prepare for an interview, you must also fully understand the scope of the story.  Don't be afraid to ask the reporter questions about the topic and find out exactly what they are looking for from you and your company.  This will help you anticipate the direction of the interview and avoid surprises.
    1. Anticipate Q&As. After you've done your research on the news outlet and the reporter, prepare a list of potential interview questions, along with your responses.  Based on the story angle and topics the reporter would like to cover, think about the questions they could ask you, especially tough questions that could throw you off or make you uncomfortable. Anticipating these feared questions and preparing careful answers will help you feel more prepared and in control.
    1. Prepare Your Key Messages. As a follow-up to your Q&As, also think about the 3 most important messages you would like to convey.  Are you acknowledging these messages in your responses? Or, are you dancing around them, but not making a point?  Remember why you are there in the first place.  The secret to a good interview is staying on point and communicating clear, effective messages.  Creating a list of your top 3 messages and how you can weave them into your responses will keep you from getting sidetracked and going off on tangents.
    1. Role Play.  What better way to prepare for an interview than by doing a dry-run.  Ask a colleague to "play reporter," using your anticipated questions, and see if they think any additional questions could come up.  Set a timer to see how long it takes to give your responses, or consider recording the entire thing.  Ensuring that you're delivering brief, but valuable key messages is important.  Doing a mock interview and obtaining your colleague's honest (constructive, but positive) feedback is very effective in preparing for different interview scenarios.
    1. Practice Makes Perfect. It's time to refine your messages, based on the role playing exercise, and practice, practice, practice!  Look in the mirror and smile, and practice what you are going to say without looking at your notes.  If you're doing a phone interview from your desk, it's okay to have your top messages on hand, but if you're live on camera or on radio, you'll want to appear natural and not too rehearsed.  Get comfortable with your answers and examples, and practice them until you feel confident that you are ready to do the interview.

    I should also point out, the more time you have to prepare, the better. While you want to be respectful of a reporter's deadline, you shouldn't commit to an interview unless you know you have time to prepare. It's never a good idea to "wing it," as this could backfire and reflect negatively on you and your company.  Think of each interview opportunity as unique and deserving of your full attention. Taking the time to prepare and practice will serve you, and your company, well.

    If you would like help with organising and preparing for media interviews, or are interested in learning more about professional media training services for your business, contact us and ask to speak with Angela to find out how we can help.  Alternatively, if you are in the US, speak to Jennifer at Marketri

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