Speaking to the media can be nerve-wracking. Whether it’s your first interview with a Milwaukee news outlet or your fifteenth with national media, preparation is key to your success. When serving as the media spokesperson for your organization, you are asked to represent your company, its values, its brand and the subject matter at hand. That’s a lot to remember even if it’s your own company or it’s your field of expertise. To stay on message, you can never over-prepare. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
When preparing for a media interview, work with your public relations team to develop key messages to serve as the framework of your responses. It’s also a good idea to brainstorm questions the media might ask. The extra preparation takes time, but it will pay off in the long run.
Once you’ve done your homework and are prepared with your key messages, it’s time to think about best practices during the interview. To ensure a successful media interview, use these five tips to prepare for your next big opportunity.
1. Set a goal Goal setting for a media interview will keep you grounded. Ask yourself:
What is the purpose of the interview?
What is the one message I want the reporter to leave knowing about?
If I could write the headline, what would I want it to say?
What does success look like?
Answering these questions allows you to have a clear direction on what you want to get out of the interview. Write your goal down and bring it with you to the interview. It will serve as a reminder of the focus for the interview and what you want readers or viewers to know.
2. Do your research
It’s important to do your research about the reporter. Take a look at what stories they’ve covered recently, and what they have posted on social media. You also might find some unique facts about them, which can be helpful conversation starters. Finding common ground can make all the difference during the interview.
Reviewing the reporter’s most recent stories will give you a feel for their style. Does the reporter like to include local statistics in their stories? Does the reporter look to include a personal testimony in their story, and if so, can you help them find that story? Preparing for an interview helps you make the most of the opportunity.
3. Practice out loud
Everyone has a different way of practicing for a media interview. Here are a few suggestions – try them out and see what works for you.
Rehearse a hypothetical interview with someone else.
Practice saying your key messages out loud in front of a mirror.
Record yourself rehearsing your key messages.
Time yourself answering different practice questions and try not to exceed 30 seconds for each question or 15 seconds if you’re practicing for a broadcast interview.
Use whatever technique works for you. No matter what option you select, it’s important to practice saying your key messages out loud.
4. Repeat your key messages
Once you’ve laid the groundwork for the interview, repeat your key messages as often as possible. Studies show that the average human attention span is eight seconds so repetition will help ensure your message is heard by the reporter.
5. Speak clearly and concisely
If you’re like me, brevity can be a challenge. I’m long-winded normally and being nervous only exacerbates this tendency. Here are a few tricks I use to mitigate this challenge during a media interview:
Keep it simple.
Keep it short.
Pause before speaking.
Be comfortable with the silence after a question.
Whether it’s your first or 100th media interview, these five tips will set you up for success and allow you to handle any curve-balls thrown your way.
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“Preparation is key to a successful media interview.”