Posted by Alastair Milburn
We have been involved in thousands of media interviews over the years – either asking the questions, answering the questions or helping a client through the interview process.
Here are a few quick tips to help you on your way to successfully completing a professional media interview.
- Look at a media interview request as an opportunity for free PR. Even when responding to a crisis comms situation, look at it as an opportunity to explain your side of the story. If you don’t, someone else will do it for you.
- Preparation is critical
- Be absolutely sure on the topic of the story and why they want to interview you. You will be found out if you aren’t clued in on your topic. If you just don’t feel confident on the topic, don’t do the interview.
- Ask who the interviewer will be. All interviewers are different and have varying styles and approaches. So, if you know the interviewers or have seen them in action before, you can begin to prepare and visualise the interview.
- Ask how long the interview will be. It is important to know this to appreciate how long you have to get your key messages across.
- Think about the questions you might be asked. What would you ask yourself in that situation, and plan accordingly.
- Ask if anyone else is also being interviewed. It may be someone who is giving an opposite view to yours so you might expect some hostility or challenges.
- Find out if the interview will be live or pre-recorded – obviously, a pre-recorded interview may be heavily edited so it is important to prepare to deliver your key messages in a short, succinct piece.
- Find out where they want the interview to take place – the studio, in your place of work or outside. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to a certain location if you think it is not appropriate, if it is noisy and if there are too many distractions to potentially damage your interview.
- Prepare the key messages you would like to get across but don’t write a script. You simply won’t be able to get it all across in an interview, and you will be rapidly scanning over your notes during the interview to find the relevant areas to the question. Make two or three key points, some statistics to support your points and one or two examples. Every interview should have an example or two to re-enforce what you are saying.
- Just before the interview do not be afraid to ask the interviewer what the first question will be. This helps you to feel relaxed and gives you an opportunity to get into the interview.
- Be enthusiastic. If you can’t be enthusiastic how can you expect the listener or viewer to be interested in what you have to say. Aim to perform at 110 per cent of your usual self – any more and you will seem ungenuine. Anything less and you run the danger of losing viewers.
- Forget the potentially millions of people out there watching you or listening to you – think of it as a fireside chat between you and the interviewer.
- Don’t over-relax – concentrate. In media interviews, the interviewee may become so comfortable with the interview process they can switch off and don’t listen to the questions. There is also a risk of freezing up when you don’t know the answer to a question. Don’t ‘switch off’ until you are back out of the building and the interview has been done.
- Maintain eye contact with the interviewer, don’t look around, and don’t look into the camera. This will be very distracting for a viewer and may make you seem ungenuine.
- If on television, don’t wear anything which may distract the viewer, such as a name badge or security pass on a lanyard. And If outside, keep your hair tied back in case of wind.
- Don’t wear reactolite lenses – a sudden lighting change and you may look like your wearing sunglasses.
- Never, ever, lie. If you don’t know the answer to the question say you don’t know.
- Don’t get into a row with the interviewer or fellow interviewee. History is littered with these car crash interviews.
- If you are asked to wear a mic assume that it is permanently on until you are back in the car park and it’s been long removed. History is again littered with people who have forgotten they are miked up.
- Remember the word ‘But’ to bring an interview back around to what you want to talk about… “Some people may say that, but….”
- Don’t use jargon which anyone outside your area of expertise simply won’t understand.
- Enjoy the experience. Sometimes, interviews can be challenging because of the subject matter, or you may be responding to criticism, but relish it! Remember, you are the expert – not the interviewer.
Effective Communication is a PR and digital marketing agency based in Cardiff that offers media training tailored to you. Our aim is to make our clients feel confident and to prepare them for any situation that may arise in a media interview. If you feel media training would be beneficial to you click here to find out more.