Media interviews should strike a balance between giving reporters valuable information and showcasing your organization in the best-possible light. With a newspaper interview, the task at hand is often more straightforward: the reporter asks questions for the information they need and the interviewee generally has time to interject their insights, background and prepared talking points.
Radio and TV interviews are a different beast. With tight time restrictions and the possibility to be (gasp!) live on air, successfully executing broadcast opportunities entails more extensive training and preparation. No reporter wants to interview a “media star” with their own agenda, so part of successful preparation is learning to be a resource.
1) Choose your ammo:
With any interview, the first step is understanding the subject, the reporter’s focus and how you and your organization fit into the article. Once you’ve established your value, you can serve as a resource, identify appropriate key messages to best prepare your side of the story.
Hone these messages down to their essence and think of them as thought-starters—compelling statements that encourage a reporter to ask positive follow-up questions.
2) Write it down:
Don’t leave the details up to chance—particularly with the short time-frame of most broadcast interviews, it’s critical to trim the fat from your talking points. By writing them down, you give yourself a guide and a checklist to evaluate your success at the end of the interview: if you checked them all off over the course of the conversation, it’s a success!
Radio interviews can also take place with the talking points or other notes in front of you. Including specific data and numbers at this stage can help to strengthen your arguments and back up your statements.
3) Practice, practice, practice:
Even veteran spokespeople benefit from preparing for individual media opportunities. Since no two interviewers and no two topics are ever the same, practice helps the mind focus on the needs of the reporter at hand and take some of the stress out of the interview itself.
Practice and review using the same medium as the real interview—videotaping a run-through of a TV interview will give you an incredible amount of feedback about tone of voice, body language and even attire. Looking and feeling comfortable goes a long way.
It’s also worth practicing what happens when an interview doesn’t go as planned. Every subject has the potential for a less than perfect turn, so it’s important to prepare for answering the curve balls and steering the conversation back to your core talking points.
4) It’s a conversation—make it yours:
Pull back your shoulders, lift your chin and, unless you’re calling in to the radio station, make eye contact—because you’ve got this one! When you have the right tools and you know how to use them, the conversation can always be turned back in your favor.
Once you’re prepared and in control, it stops being a concern and becomes an opportunity. That’s when you’re finally in the zone and ready to make the most of your time on air.
Let’s own it!