Six Steps to Prepare for Media Interviews

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When I worked at a real estate trade publication, I often interviewed members to report on their business practices and housing trends. Many of these individuals had never been interviewed before, so naturally they were a bit anxious about the experience. Invariably, one of them would ask me, “What do I have to do to prepare for this interview?”

No matter what type of business you are in, doing media interviews can reap several benefits: to share your knowledge and expertise, gain exposure for your business, improve your credibility and expand your portfolio of work. It is an inexpensive and fairly easy way to create publicity for you and your business.

Despite its advantages, many executives and professionals shy away from doing media interviews. Some people fear being misquoted while others are afraid of looking foolish. Yet others feel they don’t have anything meaningful to say or that there will be a backlash from consumers or colleagues.

But the reality is these individuals lack the preparation needed to feel more confident during interviews. Once you know how to prepare for it, you can relax and enjoy the experience.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for media interviews so you come across intelligently and confidently.

1. Understand the topic of the news story. The writer should explain what the story is about and why they want to interview you. If you are still unsure, even after they’ve explained it to you, ask for clarification. Ask: What kind of information would you like me to provide? What can I do to help you with this story?

Keep in mind that most reporters will not provide you with their questions ahead of time. They are either too busy to do that or it’s simply not their practice. Don’t get discouraged. As long as you take notes when discussing the topic beforehand and ask for clarification when needed, you should be well prepared to plan what you will say.

2. Develop a few talking points. Once you have a better understanding of the topic and the information the interviewer is looking for, come up with three to five main points that will answer their questions.

3. Do your homework. If the story requires some background research or statistics, such as the history of women in medicine or the percentage of apartments located near public transit routes, find the data ahead of the interview and have it ready so you can talk about it. You will come across as smart and organized, which writers appreciate because they don’t have to waste time following up with you later to get the data.

4. Provide examples and tell anecdotes to explain your points. In most cases, those examples do a better job of making your points than the individual points themselves. These anecdotes are more descriptive and helps readers visualize your meaning.

5. Keep your responses brief and succinct, but provide details. Think in sound bytes, especially if the interview is being recorded. Give the interviewer the information they asked for, then be quiet, indicating you are done talking. If the interviewer wants to know more or needs you to clarify something, they will ask follow up questions.

Remember, many interviewers have limited time to allow for the interview and they want to be respectful of your time as well. Make your points, but don’t run on and on or go off on tangents. Stick to the subject. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having a reporter cut you off because you talked too much.

6. Keep your expectations realistic. Just because you’ve been sought out for an interview doesn’t necessarily mean that it will lead to more sales, more clients or a Pulitzer Prize. In fact, it’s possible that once the interview is done, the writer may not use any part of the interview. This can happen for a number of reasons. Either the article ran too long for the publication and the editors had to cut your comments, or they changed the focus of the article and your comments no longer fit in with the topic. Don’t take it personally. This happens far more frequently than you can imagine.

Doing media interviews is a great way to build your professional credibility and portfolio. Following these steps can help you build confidence in your ability to speak with the media. With enough practice, in time you may become the go-to expert that reporters go to for insightful commentary about your industry.

One thought on “Six Steps to Prepare for Media Interviews

  1. Great tips here! I also suggest that the person interviewed do some research on the reporter with whom they will be speaking. This is valuable in a few ways. First, it provides the interviewee with an understanding of the types of stories, and thus the types of questions, that the reporter may ask. It also allows the interviewee feel they know the reporter a little better, and may provide an icebreaker to start the conversation before the interview begins. For example, in researching a TV reporter I was meeting, I learned that he was a graduate of the same Big 10 school my husband attended. From that bit of information, I was able to talk to him about the upcoming Rose Bowl, having a conversation that set both of us at ease before we sat down for the interview.


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