10 Tips for Mastering the Media Interview

Good news: you’ve been offered the opportunity to represent your company, and strengthen your market standing, in an interview with the media. Whether the opportunity comes from a pitch made by your PR team, or from an inbound request, this is a great position to be in.

However, are you ready to maximise the opportunity to positively benefit your company’s reputation and ultimately, improve its commercial outlook?

Well here’s our top 10 tips to do exactly that.

1. Read up on the outlet and the person you’re talking to

Your PR advisor has doubtless prepped you with the interviewer’s biography. You’ve probably followed their work yourself. But that’s not who you’re really talking to!

Think in advance about the real audience here – which media outlet is involved? What tone do they tend to take? Who reads/views their output, and how/when do they do so?

A bit of prior thought here goes a long way in ensuring that what you say is packaged in such a way as to be relevant and resonant with its audience.

2. Know what the journalist wants to talk about

This is media engagement 101.

Understanding in advance the parameters of the interview will allow you to refresh any hazy memories and gather relevant examples, company data, or market insights. Sometimes, the journalist may have given you an idea of their intended questions. If not, your PR team will have sent a brief with some likely questions and talking points. Read and consider this long in advance of the interview itself to increase your chances of a successful interview.

3. Make sure you can talk about it – or draft someone else in

Having considered the likely nature of the discussion, work with your PR team to ensure that you are well placed to discuss the topics with confidence. Old company material, previous media engagement on a similar topic, and company databases of case studies can all be useful.

However, if you feel out of your depth with the topic, it might be beneficial to swap in a colleague with more relevant expertise.

4. Read up on the recent news

As the saying goes – always expect the unexpected. There is always a chance that you will be asked something you are not prepared to answer, or that you will end up in a difficult situation.

However, something you can do to prepare for somewhat unexpected questions is simply to keep abreast of topical developments in your industry and wider society. Your PR team will brief you on recent news stories of relevance either to your company, or to the proposed interview topics. Setting your answers out in the context of another story making the headlines can be a potent way to ensure editors give your interview a prominent placement.

5. Bring data

Statistics and data won’t fail to go down well in an interview. Numbers make great headlines and give the journalist something tangible to deal with – as well as cementing your company’s standing as a respected commentator with hard data to back up its market insights.

Again, consider the type of outlet you’re dealing with and bring data and statistics of relevance to its particular audience to add colour and depth to your answers.

6. Be punctual, be responsive, be self-aware, be friendly

An obvious but fitting statement: treat others how you want to be treated. Be respectful of your interviewer. Journalists face constant deadlines, and a good sense of timekeeping is an essential first step towards building a rapport and setting a positive tone for the interview. Show up late, and the journalist is unlikely to show up again.

Listen carefully to the journalist’s questions, and make sure to answer them directly (while also trying to include the key messages you want to get across).

Interviews work best when they are conducted as a friendly, informal conversation – both for the sake of the interview itself, and for the valuable, long-term relationship that an enjoyable and productive conversation can help you to build with a journalist. So have fun!

7. Make it a two-way discussion  

Following on from point number 6, the key to a fruitful relationship is making it a two-way street. So, asking questions yourself can help solicit their feedback and thoughts to create an exchange of ideas. They’ll enjoy the interview more this way – and so will you!

8. Know when enough is enough

Speak clearly and concisely; say what you need to say to answer a question, and then stop.

Holding back a little can also tee up the next question, helping you to subtly guide the conversation.

Additionally, at the end of an interview, most journalists will ask whether you have anything else to add – so don’t worry too much about cramming everything you want to say into your first few answers.

9. Don’t presume that anything is off the record

Ever.

As well as being a terrible cliché, whatever you say can’t be unsaid – so if you don’t want it to appear in print, online, or on screen, don’t say it!

10. Make yourself available as an ongoing resource

The interview has gone well. You’re happy with the answers you’ve provided, and the journalist is content with the information they’ve gathered. It’s a win-win. But the relationship doesn’t stop there.

Your agency will be following up with the journalist, but it’s your job to make sure you’re available to respond quickly to any additional questions or clarifications that the journalist might have. At the end of the day, you’re the expert!

By being readily available can help cement a productive relationship and could provide more opportunities later down the line.

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