Tips for a Winning Media Interview

Interview

Whether you’re a rookie or veteran when it comes to giving media interviews, it never hurts to go over some best practices.

It’s important to understand why a reporter is interested in talking with you, as pitching a story may have a different tone or feel than when a reporter reaches out to you about a specific topic.

Here are six tips for giving an interview that positions you and your company in a favorable light and helps you make the most of your opportunity to get your name out there.
 
Research the reporter: While reading their past articles, look for common themes, such as the abundant use of numbers or anecdotes. Analyze the tone and type of stories they typically cover. All of this will unlock clues about what type of interview you can expect, allowing you to prepare accordingly. When you talk with the reporter, get to know him or her before you begin the formal Q&A. And be friendly, even if the line of questioning is not.

Rehearse talking points: Under the right circumstances, a news story can function as a third-party endorsement. This begs the question: If you were paying for an ad, what are the one or two things you’d want readers or viewers to know about your business? Identify these talking points and then rehearse natural ways to weave them into conversation.

Get to the point: Reporters have to compress your entire interview into a narrow column in a newspaper, a short blog post that people will actually read, or a fast-paced time slot on the news. This isn’t easy. So, while you should answer questions thoroughly, don’t needlessly drag on because the more notes the reporter needs to transcribe, the more difficult it will be to cull your most crucial talking points.

Steer the conversation: If you want the interview to go in a certain direction, guide it there. Otherwise, the conversation will go where the reporter’s curiosity takes it. When in doubt, stick with your talking points. Reporters feed on inconsistency, so be sure to remember your previous statements and be ready to explain discrepancies in understandable terms. Use the bridging techniques you’ve learned to steer the conversation back on course if you start to go on a tangent.

Wrap it up: “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” Disguised as a formality at the end of an interview, this question is arguably the most important you’ll be asked, as it offers an opportunity to reinforce key talking points and convince the reporter about what’s really worth sharing.

Get after it: After the interview, send the reporter a friendly email thanking him or her for the time and offering to provide additional quotes, photos, charts, sources or other information. Reporters appreciate the courtesy, even if they already have everything they need, which will help with relationship-building.
 
If you don’t have an in-house public relations team, take the time to find a consultant who can train you on certain skills, such as responding to hostile questions, developing talking points, bridging topics and ultimately getting your story out. The more prepared you are for your interview, the greater the likelihood it will be successful.

By Brian Murnahan and Alex Altman
Murnahan Public Relations