Top 10 tips to ace your media interview
- Always, always, always prepare your key messages. Typed, handwritten, points on post-its – whatever. Put down the three most important points you want to get across about your business, your product or the issue at hand.
- Find a story or two that illustrates your key messages. Think of it as proving you can do what you say you can do
- Be up to date on what’s going on in the papers/the magazine that’s interviewing you. Know their style of story. If they like to ‘dig’ for an interesting angle (ie: potential dirt) you’ll be a step ahead.
- Practice delivering your key messages. This is the critical piece here. You don’t want to sound like you’re reading them. Put them into your daily conversation as often as you can. Have someone fire (hard) questions at you and practice turning the question into the answer you want to give.
- You don’t have to ‘answer’ the journalist’s question. You have the right to choose the statements you give them. It’s up to you to steer the conversation where you want it to go. If you want to watch great media technique in action, watch the major party Federal politicians. They’re usually prepped and trained to within an inch of their lives. Regardless of what you thought of John Howard as a PM, he was incredibly media savvy and rarely ‘off-message’.
- Be quiet – when you’ve given the answer you want to give, stop speaking. Journalists know if they’re quiet, the interviewee will generally ‘fill’ the space and that’s where they get the ‘good stuff’.
- If you’re asked a question that makes your blood boil, stop, breathe and have a sip of water. Collect your thoughts. Journos are trained to ‘find’ the story. Don’t take the bait.
- Nothing is ever “off the record”. Never assume that what you say before or after the interview won’t be used. Take it as a given anything you say during your time together can and will be used.
- Don’t have an expectation that a journalist is there to help you or your company. They’re not. They’re there to do their job which is to tell interesting enough stories to ‘sell’ their readers to advertisers.
- Once it’s out there, don’t attempt to get it back. Unless what’s been printed is factually incorrect, you’re unlikely to have them return your call. Even if there’s a fact correction, you’re unlikely to get more than a tiny retraction somewhere buried on page 113. So think hard about whether it’s worth annoying the journalist – if you’re difficult to deal with, they’ll look to give a story to someone else (unless of course, you’ve got news they really want, but prepare for some pain!)
Finally, think about getting some good media training. Your trainer will work with you on developing up your key messages, how to deliver them well and how to answer difficult questions. And they will ask you questions you never saw coming – better with them than in a ‘live’ interview.