Good news: your PR team has been engaging with the media on your behalf, and their efforts have paid off. You now have a valuable opportunity to speak to a journalist about your thoughts on the markets in which you work.
Talking to the media provides a great chance to raise the profile of your business, illustrate the depth of your knowledge, and share your insight with your peers, prospects and customers.
But how to maximise the value of this opportunity?
Preparation is key
Ever prepared, you’ll have worked with your PR advisors to read up on some relevant industry news and talk through the issues you might be asked to discuss – and you may even have some interesting company or market statistics up your sleeve, to share with the journalist.
This preparation is important – and making sure that you’re prepared and comfortable with the interview topics in advance will allow the interview to progress smoothly and productively.
What to do on the day itself
However, there are also some things you can do on the day, to make the interview as good as it can be.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a short list of simple tips that will help you to effectively communicate with the journalist.
The list below is far from definitive, and the value of undergoing comprehensive in-depth media training cannot be overstated. But the following tips will all go a long way towards making a positive impression, for you and your business.
(Incidentally, if you want to know what not to do, take a look at our list of the 7 common mistakes people make when giving a media interview.)
8 Tips for Mastering the Media Interview
1. Be punctual
First things first: arrive on time. While this may seem obvious, 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.
2. Be responsive
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).
However, while directly answering the journalist’s questions in an interview is important, we’d also stress that you should never feel pressured into saying something you don’t want to.
If you’re unsure of an answer, you can always offer to check later and, with the help of your PR team, provide the details after the interview. Equally, if you can’t answer a question for reasons of sensitivity, be honest – and never be pushed to discuss a topic that makes you uncomfortable.
For more on this, read our article on how to deal with difficult media interview situations.
3. Be self-aware
Speaking of difficult media interview situations, we often hear journalists complaining about interviewees getting the wrong end of the stick and failing to give the journalist the information they’re looking for.
Interviewees often do this without realising – but if you’re alert to the journalist’s tone and the direction of the conversation, you’ll be able to gauge how well the interview is going, and take steps to rectify things, if necessary.
For example, if a journalist tries approaching the same question from multiple different angles, this is usually a good tip-off that you’re not getting to the heart of the question you’re being asked.
Now, as we said above, you should never feel pressured into saying something you’re not comfortable with. But if you can’t answer a question well – and particularly if you notice that you don’t seem to be giving the journalist what they want – it’s worth being transparent and explaining your difficulty with the question.
4. Be friendly
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.
From your perspective, being open and friendly – and perhaps indulging in a little small-talk – will create a good atmosphere, building that rapport and keeping your interviewer’s attention engaged.
5. Be open to questions
If you’re explaining a complex topic, feel free to politely ask ‘am I being clear?’ or ‘does that make sense?’
While journalists are generally happy exploring unfamiliar, and often niche, topics, they will appreciate the chance to ask for clarifications – and it’s worth taking the time to ensure that your points are getting across.
6. 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.
And finally, something of a pet hate…
7. Know who 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.
And finally, something of a pet hate…
8. Don’t presume that anything is ‘off the record’.
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!
These 8 tips should start you off in the right direction and help you to maximise the value of any media interviews you undertake on behalf of your company.