PR Smarts Article: Acing Media Interviews Like a Pro

Before the Interview

•    Congratulations! You're going to be interviewed for an article or a broadcast. If you are new to working with the media, you probably want to practice getting a few key messages into your answers. What do you want your audience (customers, potential customers, investors, etc.) to learn about you? Here are a few short tips on what to do before and during the interview. 

•    Never do an interview cold. Prepare yourself. 

•    Learn what you can about the publication, audience, interviewer and story. Read the reporter's last couple of stories.

•    Start with a goal. Visualize the “headline.” What would you like the story to say? 

•    Review your 5-6 “must-say” message points that make your case. 

•    Practice answers to all potential questions. Have your staff grill you. They will enjoy it. You probably won't, but it will make your answers more potent.

During the Interview

•    Arrive on time. Give yourself a few minutes to relax and practice. 
•    If it is a phone interview, remove distractions. Hold calls and visits. Get into the proper mindset.
•    Keep message points in front of you. Repeat 2-3 times during interview.
•    Speak THROUGH the reporter TO your audience. 
•    Be engaging and friendly. Don’t be defensive. Speak slowly. Give the reporter time to write accurately.
•    Don’t repeat a negative question; it will end up as part of your quotes in the story. Bridge to your “must-say” messages. Stay positive.
•    Thou Shalt Not Be Boring. Keep answers brief and quotable. Avoid jargon, acronyms, industry slang, etc.
•    Make your points easily understood, e.g., “The three most critical issues in this situation are…”
•    Do NOT go “off the record.” Assume everything you say (even small talk) is fair game from the time you show up until you get back into your car.
•    In a confrontational interview, keep to the high road. Avoid emotion. 
•    Don’t guess. “I don’t know -- I’ll get back to you on it,” is a fine answer. And, do get back to the reporter with the information. 
•    Never say, “No comment.” It is defensive.

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