When building a relationship with the media, you may be contacted to be interviewed for a story. Providing effective and engaging information through an interview can set you apart as a resource for your industry.
Preparing for an Interview
- Know why you're being interviewed. It's alright to ask the reporter questions so you know what they expect to get out of the interview.
- Prepare your answers.
- Make a list of key message points – the interview will go by quickly.
- Practice answering questions, this will help you be more confident and relaxed during the interview.
During the Interview
- Avoid jargon.
- Include strong quotes.
- Nothing is "off the record" – reporters can quote anything you say, even if it's out of context.
- Prepare talking points rather than answers. Preparing answers can make you sound rehearsed and can easily throw you off if the interviewer goes in a different direction. Knowing your talking points allow for a more fluid interview and will help your responses be natural and engaging.
- Be concise, longer answers aren't necessarily better. An audience can lose interest if you're too long winded.
- Be yourself. If you're passionate about a topic, let it show.
- Don't lose your cool, remain relaxed and calm.
- Volunteer key information, you don't have to wait for the reporter to ask about a topic to bring it up.
- Anticipate unexpected questions.
- Don't hedge or fudge the truth. If you aren't at liberty to divulge information, connect the reporter with someone who can help.
- "No comment" can imply that you are hiding information. Let the reporter know if information isn't available or if you don't have an answer. Share when you anticipate being able to answer their questions.
- Be aware of your body language. Try not to fidget or shift while you speak. Remember the cameras will see your entire body.
- Talk to the reporter, not the camera.
- Keep your responses quick and conversational.
- Most television interviews are edited before they are broadcast. If needed, have the reporter re-ask a question and let you respond again.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid wearing bright white or deep black, as they can cause lighting issues. If you will be in front of a green screen, avoid wearing green.
- Double check the time of the interview. Arrive early if you are interviewing in the studio. Clarify who will call if you are interviewing over the phone.
- Ask about requirements before the interview. Many radio producers require phone interviews to be done on landlines for the best sound quality.
- Unlike television interviews, radio interviews are often aired live. Be sure to ask if the interview will be edited or aired live beforehand so you can be prepared.
- Radio interviews can benefit from strong metaphors to compensate for the lack of visual context.
- Make sure any called-in interview has no background interference. Be in a quiet space where you won't be disturbed.
- Wear professional attire.
- Use a laptop or desktop computer, not a smartphone.
- Maintain eye contact by looking directly at your computer's camera. If you struggle with keeping eye contact with the camera, place an arrow pointing towards the camera to draw your eyes to that spot.
- Don't sit too close to the computer. Make sure your head, shoulders, and chest are visible.
- Make sure the lighting is good by sitting in front of a window or by placing a lamp by your computer. You want light to shine at you, not from behind you or from odd angles.
- Choose an appropriate background. Virtual backgrounds can be fun but aren't always appropriate when working with the media. An office is an ideal backdrop, but if you don't have a designated office space, try to avoid areas where beds, mirrors, bathrooms, or unorganized spaces are visible.
- Prevent interruptions as much as possible. Closing or locking doors can help prevent children or pets from wandering in during the interview.
- It can be helpful to have "cue cards" with key ideas or topics placed around you but out of camera shot. You can refer back to them during the interview and they will help prevent your eyes from wandering around the room when thinking of answers.
It is always a good idea to send a thank you to the reporter once the interview is done. If you are pleased with their story, let them know! This will set you apart from other contacts and help build a positive relationship with the media. Sharing the finished product on social media is another way to show your appreciation and support the organization.