You just landed an interview with a top news outlet. They’re seeking your insights for an upcoming story and you know it’s an opportunity to increase your brand awareness and credibility.
Are you prepared to take full advantage of the interview?
A successful interview requires more than subject matter expertise. Preparation, practice, and an understanding of the media landscape are also essential. Here are five tips to help you go from an expert in your field to an expert interviewer:
1. Do Your Research
You don’t want to go into any interview blind. Start by researching your interviewer. Read their recent stories and articles on similar topics to get a sense of the types of questions they might ask, their understanding of the topic, and the general tone of their work.
Then, research the media outlet. Learning about the outlet’s audience should inform your approach — your messaging will likely sound different if you’re speaking to CMOs or engineers. Lastly, explore what other experts in the field are saying on the interview topic, ensuring you have a strong footing in how your perspective compares to others.
Proper research beforehand will not only help you understand what you are walking into, but also boost your confidence during the discussion.
2. Refine Your Messaging
Attention spans for media stories have shrunk significantly over the years. And combined with the reality of a shrinking media landscape, it is imperative to communicate your message efficiently and effectively.
Prior to conducting an interview, take time to establish your objectives. Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I want the audience to take away from what I’m saying?” Establishing and practicing key talking points in advance will help you communicate your message clearly and concisely and ensure you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.
3. Know Your Terminology
It’s important to go into an interview with an understanding of basic journalism principles to avoid potential conflict. You may have heard the term “off the record,” but do you know its full implications? Here’s a primer:
- On the record: Everything you say may be quoted and used in the story. This is the standard expectation for media interviews.
- Off the record: Information shared with a reporter cannot be used or shared in any way. This may be used to allow for further questions or story insights.
- On background: Any information provided can be used, but the source won’t be named, quoted, or attributed within the story.
- On deep background: The information provided cannot be included in the article, but may be used to enhance the journalist’s view of the subject matter or lead to other sources.
In an interview, always assume everything you say is on the record.
To go “off the record” or “on background,” you and the reporter must agree to terms before providing information. In other words, if you say something you shouldn’t and follow it up with, “that’s off the record,” that information can be used in the article.
We only recommended going off the record when it’s truly necessary and when you have a trusted relationship with the reporter.
4. Pay Attention to Nonverbals
Now that you’ve done your research and polished your talking points, you’re ready to nail your interview, right? Not quite. When talking to a reporter, it is not enough to recite messages you’ve memorized.
Nonverbals, including facial expressions, tone and pitch, physical gestures, and posture make up over 65% of all communication. Translation: how you say something is just as important as what you say. You need to make sure your nonverbal communication and general appearance don’t detract from your message. This is true for all interviews, but is especially important for broadcast interviews.
Since March 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a shift toward video interviews. Even after the world returns to “normal,” many believe video calls will remain a big part of daily business operations, including media interviews. No matter the format, the same rules apply.
5. Structure Your Answers
When you answer a reporter’s questions, you don’t want to inadvertently ramble on to other topics. You want to ensure your interviewer picks up on your key messages. These 3 steps (and a bonus step) will keep you on message:
- Acknowledge the question: Comment on why the question is important or relevant
- Connect to a key message: Relate the question to one of your key messages
- Add proof points: Offer evidence in the form of statistics or examples
Bonus: End your answers succinctly with an overarching message. Master interviewers sometimes use the end of their answers as an opportunity to dangle a related talking point. Think of it as a carrot to entice the reporter to ask a specific follow up question and guide the discussion in the direction you want to go.
Looking for more than just a basic primer? Media training can help ensure you’re ready to tackle your interviews with confidence! To learn more about our interactive media training, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.