4 Tips on Nailing an Interview With a Reporter
Scoring an interview with a top-tier reporter is a big step in an entrepreneur’s journey. But without proper preparation to set the tone of the conversation and in turn control how you and your company will be perceived from the published piece, it can be a wasted opportunity.
For first-time interviewees or those entering new markets (and new reporters), here are a few tips to help you prepare for the media.
1. Let your passion shine.
Entrepreneurs need to focus on who they are and how they got there and ensure this passion and drive come through in the interview. Nothing pleases a reporter more than seeing true passion, and how it translates into professional choices.
Focusing on a particular personal anecdote -- perhaps a survival story about being a little fish in a big pond or recalling a childhood event – and tying this story to the genesis of your company works well in establishing and crystalizing your public persona. Don’t be afraid to show the reporter how you use your product, too.
2. Manage the curveballs.
Remember that your company is not all that a reporter is interested in. Especially with executive interviews, media will probe for sound bites on complex, sometimes controversial topics. If your company has a presence in a country or region that has made international headlines, you can be sure that the reporter will throw in a question or two about your opinion on the news, even if your communications team has specifically mentioned that these questions will not be entertained.
The best thing to do is prepare for tough questions and have well-rehearsed answers in your back pocket so you’re not caught off guard. But never lie. It can be tempting when asked a curveball question, but this is inappropriate and risky.
3. Triple check all details.
Journalists understand that you travel a lot, and they’re very busy, too. However you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard from journalists that they’ve bent over backward to accommodate a traveling CEO only to be stood up on the line at an inconvenient hour simply because interview logistics weren’t reconfirmed beforehand.
Nip this problem in the bud by triple checking all details, down to the dial-in number and pass code. Go the extra mile and reconfirm that what you know as the agreed upon final date and time is indeed final on the journalist’s calendar, too. Do this 24 hours before the interview is scheduled to begin.
4. Be proactive.
Looking beyond the interview, reporters are always hunting for nuggets to insert into other articles they may be working on. As such, it is important to keep abreast of industry trends and have well thought out commentary for each. It might spur some lively conversation and even another story idea in the reporter’s mind.
Another tactic for remaining top of mind with reporters is ensuring that any outstanding questions or loose threads are tied up as quickly as possible after the interview. Next time the journalist has a request, you might be the first founder he/she calls simply because you were the most cooperative and prompt.
Ksenia Chabanenko works in business development and comminications for My.com, the Silicon Valley subsidiary of LSE Mail.Ru Group. She is advisor in several startups and venture-capital funds and speaker at multiple tech conferences. Chabanenko is the author of the first book about Twitter, in which every sentence is no more than 140 characters.