Top 5 tips for successful media interviews

There is likely nothing more intimidating than being interviewed by a journalist particularly if the topic of the interview is controversial. No one wants to look foolish and become the next social media meme.

Here are some strategies to help get your message out.

  1. Prepare: Preparation is your friend. Think about what you might be asked. Be sure you have an answer to the tough questions. I can't tell you the number of times during a coaching session I've been told, "Don't ask me that. I don't like that question." If the question is uncomfortable, you can be sure it will be asked. If you are caught off-guard with a phone call from a journalist, asking for an interview, don't feel that you have to respond in the moment. It is perfectly acceptable to arrange a time that is mutually convenient. Even 10 minutes can help you prepare a key message and get any relevant statistics or information.
  2. Prepare your key messages: What is the one (maximum three) pieces of information you want the audience to remember? Keep it short. Be sure it's easy to understand. 
  3. Answer the question: There is nothing more annoying to a reporter (and the public) than someone who tries to dodge a question. Answer the question succinctly so there can be no room for a misquote. Ramblers beware! If you can't offer a coherent, concise answer, it's a lot harder for a reporter to quote you accurately.
  4. Pivot: Once you've answered the question, segue to your key message, using a statement along the lines of "The most important thing for people to know is [insert key message]. You have more opportunity to have your key message reported - especially if it's broadcast media - if you repeat messaging. The formula is RESPOND TO QUESTION + SEGUE + KEY MESSAGE.
  5. Don't say "no comment": If you can't answer the question, explain why you can't comment. If there is a process underway, explain what the process is that will arrive at a decision/conclusion. If you don't know the answer, say so. Don't guess or share inaccurate information. If you can find the answer, offer to do so and follow up with the reporter as soon as you've found the information.
Good luck with your interview!

If you have interview tips to share, we'd love to hear them in the comments below.



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