Seven PR Tips to Nail Your Next Media Interview
By April Mason
Speaking with a journalist can be intimidating. A favorable story in a regional, trade or national news outlet is proven to boost your brand and reputation – carrying much more credibility than a paid ad. However, the pressure to deliver important messages while answering questions "off the cuff” can feel so immense that some executives avoid talking to press altogether.
Here are some tips that will calm your nerves and help you nail your next interview:
Google the journalist: Look up a journalist before you speak with them. Check out their Twitter feed and review their recent stories. Getting to know their areas of focus will help you understand what they are looking for - and can be a good conversation starter.
Develop three main talking points: Interviews are an opportunity to get your message to the masses. Write down three key points that you want to convey during the interview and refer to them when answering questions. The more often you say it, the less likely the reporter will leave it out.
Anticipate negative questions: Work with your PR team to practice answering potentially challenging questions in advance. Preparation will not only boost your confidence, but will help you "bridge back" to topics you want to discuss.
Keep it simple: Reporters speak with multiple sources about many different subjects every day - so don't assume they know your industry as well as you do. As a result, you should avoid "inside baseball" terms and speak in short, clear soundbites. Keep in mind that most reporters are looking for a quote and not detailed background. The more information you share, the easier it will be for the reporter to lose sight of your key messages.
Make eye contact: Keep your eyes on the reporter and focus fully on the interview. Just like speaking with a friend or colleague, a reporter will find it rude if you look around the room or at your phone. This is especially important if you’re speaking to a journalist in a busy, distracting newsroom or at a trade show. For phone interviews, always be on time and don’t rush your answers.
Speak confidently: You are an expert in your field. Don’t use filler phrases that make you appear unknowledgeable. Avoid words like “maybe,” “pretty much,” “could,” “you know," "kind of," "I'm not the expert," "I'm not really sure," or “as far as I know.” If you don't know the answer to a question, be direct and refer the journalist to another source.
Identify and share examples to illustrate your points: Recent case studies, anecdotes and data will add color to a story and back up your claims. Concrete examples will also position you as an expert and help a reporter find more sources.
After an interview is over, be sure to thank the journalist via email, and follow up promptly on any information or visuals you promised. It’s also appropriate to offer to help them identify other sources for commentary and fact checking.
When the story appears, tell the journalist what you like about it. This could lead to greater opportunities for collaboration — and favorable media coverage — in the future.
April Mason has spent the last two decades developing public relations campaigns for clients in the real estate, economic development and tourism industries. Her Montclair, NJ-based agency, Violet PR, focuses on generating favorable media exposure for communities and companies reinventing urban areas, building sustainable projects and growing businesses.