Media Interviews 101

A media interview, when conducted properly, can be an excellent opportunity to tell a positive story about your product, issue or event.  At the same time, media interviews are stressful situations for many people. 

 

Although each interview will vary depending upon factors such as format, audience and location, basic techniques for more effective media interviews can be learned.  With preparation and practice, whether you are a highly experienced spokesperson or a novice, you can become a more effective communicator.  Success starts with a game plan to give you confidence, control and credibility.

 

Confidence enables you to go into an interview situation as an equal and enthusiastic participant, control enables you to communicate your own message clearly, and credibility enables your audience to believe that message.

 

The concept of “control” includes controlling your demeanor, your presentation, your language and your message.  Most important, it means taking an active role in steering the interview ⎯ creating and seizing opportunities to assert your own agenda, rather than being pulled along passively by the reporter.

 

This strategy begins with preparation, and that means answering these questions – or having your PR person get this information for you (which is what we do):

 

  • What type of publication/program is it?
  • Who is its primary audience?
  • To what extent has the media person dealt with this issue?  Do they have an apparent bias?
  • Who else is the reporter interviewing?
  • Where does my point of view fit into the story?
  • What is the interview format?

live/taped

edited/unedited

in-studio “Live at 5” or talk show format

on-location “stand-up”

telephone interview  

“remote” interview (interviewer and subject at different locations)

listener call-in broadcast program

solo interview vs. multi-guest discussion

unexpected “ambush”

press conference/media availability

 

  • What type of story is the reporter doing?

“hard news”

feature story

personality piece

investigative report

in-depth background piece

point/counterpoint

 

(You may also find yourself the subject of an informal or spontaneous interview, for example, impromptu questions by a reporter who approaches you at a meeting or after a speech.)

 

Also, while you can’t usually ask for the questions ahead of time, it is appropriate to ask the reporter in advance of the interview who else he/she is speaking with for the story.

 

Answers to these questions will help you decide:

 

  • What opportunities this interview offers you to make positive points about yourself, your organization, your product or issue.
  • What factual information and other preparation you will need to get ready.

 

(*Note:  If you conclude there are no potential benefits, then respectfully decline the interview.  In most instances, however, interviews will offer some opportunity to tell your story to large audiences.  Also, a good working relationship with media will increase an organization’s chances of fair treatment during times of attack or controversy.)

 

The next step is to define your agenda, which we will address in a subsequent blog post.

 

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