A key element of a successful communications strategy is participating in media interviews, sometimes known as briefings. While vital to helping build a well-rounded brand persona, interviews with the media can be intimidating in the beginning. Breakaway PR has had years of experience working with subject matter experts across industries to help them ace their interviews with a wide range of media outlets.
Here are some tips from our media training playbook that will help boost your interview game:
1. Determine your key messages & talking points.
It’s easy in an interview setting to get lost in the flow of the conversation and forget some of the key points you want to communicate. Our advice: have a cheat sheet of key messages and talking points at hand; practice saying them out loud before the interview. Doing this will help you stay on track during the conversation. Just as important, when a reporter asks you a question that may be off-topic or unexpected, the prep work will make it easier to bridge your answer back to a key talking point.
2. Familiarize yourself with the reporter, outlet and audience beforehand.
Before coming face-to-face (or even email-to-email) with a reporter, it’s a good idea to research the reporter and the outlet. Ahead of the interview, check out the background of the person you are meeting with, especially what topics they cover. Oftentimes, the information you glean from research will help in establishing rapport during the interview. We recommend reading – or watching – a few pieces of coverage published by the reporter to get a sense of how he/she likes to structure his/her articles.
Note: when you have a PR partner, the firm should provide the research – a briefing document – for you in advance.
3. Prepare to be on camera (even if you aren’t).
Whether in the workplace or socially, it’s understood that “when you look good, you feel good” and generally perform at a higher level. A study published in 2023 found that those who dressed better than usual in the workplace had a stronger sense of self-esteem and performed better on tasks. The same concept applies to interviews. Even if the interview is to be held off-camera, it is good practice to dress the part. And in the Zoom era, at least look the part from the waist up!
4. Speak clearly and avoid using too much industry jargon.
Although it may feel comfortable to fall into common industry phrases and acronyms, most media (outside of trade media) will not understand the day-to-day industry lingo. More importantly, the audience won’t get it, and thus lose interest. Remember, the goal is to ensure both the reporter and the audience understand your messages, so avoid talking in circles and make sure you speak clearly.
Also, be aware that while the reporter is looking for information, they are also looking for quotable soundbites. One trick to ensuring your answers are quotable is to offer up the conclusion first, then back it up with facts and evidence.
5. Listen and reply thoughtfully.
When a conversation is flowing and there is a good rapport with a reporter, it’s fairly easy to get excited and jump into an answer before the interviewer has completed the question. Slow down and listen. Wait for the whole question to be asked before jumping into a reply.
6. Be accurate.
While you are the subject matter expert, do not feel pressure to have an answer for every question the reporter asks you. If asked a question you don’t know the answer to, or simply feel uncomfortable answering, it’s okay to let the reporter know that you don’t have all the details at this time and will follow up with your answer after the interview. Being honest will go a long way in earning the reporter’s trust and setting up a healthy, long-lasting relationship with that media contact.
Our most important tip: be yourself! Authenticity will come through in an interview, whether by phone, online video, email, or TV. Of course, for first-timers and/or those who anticipate a regular interview schedule, seek help from a PR professional. It’s our job to ensure that you are prepared as well as help facilitate an ongoing relationship with that reporter. And you can focus your energy on your business.