So you’ve landed your first media interview – congratulations! Whether secured yourself or through a PR agency, this is an important step to tell your story and create a journalist relationship. While we always advocate formal media training prior to proactive media engagement, here are our favorite tips to help guide you through the interview process.
- Block off 30 minutes in your calendar. Journalists are efficient and most phone interviews are on the shorter side, but allow yourself some wiggle room either way. A 30-minute window is a safe bet for most interviews.
- Prepare talking points. Before you get on the phone, write out 3-5 key messages. It’s important to prioritize what you want to convey to the reporter in a short conversation, because you won’t have time to say absolutely everything you’d like to.
- Avoid jargon. Even if the reporter has industry knowledge, don’t assume they (or their audience) are familiar with the same vocabulary. Reporters are looking for sound bites, so rehearsing your talking points in a simple, pithy way may be beneficial.
- Never use promissory language. No matter your industry, never make any kind of promise or guarantee. Use phrases like “our goal” or “we seek to.”
- Be prepared to bridge. Not every question will be a softball directly related to your talking points. If the conversation takes a detour or you’re not comfortable answering, use a bridging phrase to return to your messages. Be polite, and never say “no comment.” Try saying, “That’s a great question, but that’s not my area of expertise. I focus on…” or “I’m not the best person to answer that, but I’m happy to connect you with my colleague…”
- Offer follow-up availability. A reporter will appreciate your willingness to help them out should they need further clarification. If you’re working with a PR agency, keep them in the loop of any follow-up conversations so all parties are on the same page.
- Don’t ask to proofread the article before it publishes. Sometimes a reporter will send a quote for approval or fact checking, but that’s often the closest you’ll get to approving anything. Asking to proofread may suggest you don’t trust the reporter, so plan to handle any issues retroactively to avoid ruffling feathers upfront.
- Always say thank you. Remember your manners — send the journalist a quick thank you for taking the time to speak with you (or your PR agency should do this on your behalf). This is also a great way to clarify your title, share contact information and provide any necessary follow-up details.
- Check your ego. Understand that not every interview will result in a quote, and that’s not always up to the reporter. Your contributions may get nixed by an editor, or perhaps the reporter was more interested in an introductory/background interview. This is still a win! If you proved yourself an accommodating and helpful source, an opportunity to further the relationship will likely come back to you.
- Don’t blow a golden opportunity. My favorite tip is to always have a response prepared for “Is there anything you’d like to add?” Many journalists conclude interviews with this type of question, and too often sources will skip over it in a hurry to get off the phone. However, this is a golden opportunity to reiterate a key message, clear up a misperception or mention something that wasn’t asked.
Just remember not to wing it. A PR agency can help you navigate this process and provide background context and training, but you should always carve out time for your own preparation. Armed with your talking points and interview etiquette, you’ll be ready to rock your first interview.