How to Give a Successful Media Interview: 3 PR Tips
Several weeks ago, a reporter interviewed me for an article on BlogHer about how to give a good interview to a member of the media. Sounds ironic, doesn’t it? Part of my job as a PR professional is to help clients prepare for interviews with print, online and broadcast journalists (aka: media training) and I have seen firsthand how important it is to be a valuable, authoritative source to the media.
While everyone has a different level of comfort with being interviewed, speaking with the media can present a number of challenges. Whether you are speaking on behalf of your company or your own personal brand, it can be difficult to sound like yourself while also trying to maintain a professional, buttoned-up image.
Always Be Prepared. Remember in high school when your teachers would tell you to study a little bit each night instead of cramming right before the test? If you are a spokesperson for the media, you should always be familiar with your topic area. The media can be extremely fast-paced and sometimes, interview opportunities can arise with less than 24 hours notice. If you’re already confident with your topic, all you’ll need to do is brush up on your talking points so that you’ll be cool, calm and collected for the big interview.
Lead the Way. Think of an interview like a conversation, where someone often takes the lead. While the reporter will likely initiate questions, don’t be afraid to stray outside the lines a little bit in order to make your point. To make your point without stammering or interrupting the journalist, use two techniques called bridging and flagging. In bridging, you address or refer to the issue raised in the question and then expand your answer to encompass both the question and your key point using specific information. In flagging, you draw attention to an important point by using flag words like “The most important thing is …” or “The bottom line is …’ to return to the original point.
Don’t Lose Your Guard! Some reporters are friendly and conversational, putting you immediately at ease. While this can be reassuring, remember that everything you say is “on the record” so if you don’t want it to appear in print (or on air), don’t say it out loud! This includes jokes, sarcasm and any “background” information that you provide as context. As a general rule, say only what you would want to say in a room full of people and if something is confidential, keep it that way. If you need to provide lengthy contextual information in order to answer a reporter’s question, you should probably consider simplifying your message for future interviews.