How to Nail a Media Interview

How to Nail a Media Interview
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This story originally appeared on PR Newswire's Small Business PR Toolkit

As you may recall, a few months ago we wrote a piece about how you can plan and pitch a top-notch PR campaign. Hopefully by now, you’ve had a few chats with the media and secured interviews about your subject. Great job! But now the real work is about to begin, so get ready for some heavy lifting.

Now it’s time for you to prepare to interview with said media contact, but first let me get something off my chest: Please, don’t even think of asking for the interview questions ahead of time. This is a big no! Here are some tips for how you should really prepare:

1. Research is key. 

Before you even think about interviewing, you need to do your due diligence. Have yourself, a colleague or a friend who knows your business draft up some potential interview questions. Anticipate the tough questions and prepare statements that are simple, brief and to the point. Read, watch or listen to your interviewer’s previous work so you can get an idea of their interview style. Is it conversational, hard-hitting, informative, friendly or cold? You should already know this prior to pitching, but if you don’t, don’t panic: This is why you prep before the interview.

2. Practice makes perfect. 

Before the actual interview, practice with a friend or by yourself, and make sure to record it so you can see what body movements you make and how you sound. If you notice that you flail your arms like Animal from the Muppets or you speak too excitedly, you’ll be able to correct the situation. As you practice, you’ll want to keep your key messages in mind and think of how you will deliver them. Remember to make it sound as though you’re actually providing insight without being overly promotional. Never forget what your messages and goals are during the interview.

3. Stay on track.

When asked a question, some experts recommend that you repeat it. This is a good idea if you can’t think of a proper response immediately, but honestly, it just stalls the conversation. If you need a second to think, reiterate the question and answer it quickly. However, do not repeat a negative question, because that just draws more attention to the answer. Never say “no comment,” as this is actually a comment and appears as if you’re hiding something. Answer it and segue the conversation to another topic.

4. Plan your wardrobe. 

Before an interview, make sure you’re wearing something that you’ve worn before so you’re comfortable. No one likes to feel self-conscious while they’re being taped for the media. Honestly, I recommend that you wear something that represents your business culture. Either way, be sure to try on your outfit prior to an interview.

5. You’re always on. 

Remember that anything you say or do can be included in your interview. In other words, there’s no “off the record,” so stick to your key messages and answer the questions. If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, say that you’ll get back to them on that and then lead to a different topic. It’s all about staying cool, breathing properly, answering questions and being helpful to the media, which is why it helps to have all the facts and data. These things not only help tell your story, but also help sell it.

6. Remember what’s off limits. 

As I previously mentioned, don’t ask for the questions ahead of time and don’t ask for approval before the story is published or aired. Instead, just let the journalist know that you’re available for follow-up questions or fact verification. Also, there’s no such thing as off the record and no comment. Make yourself accessible.

At the end of the day, the point is to prepare and practice, because once you’re comfortable answering questions and having actual dialog with a journalist, you will be seen as a valuable resource for media outlets, which can lead to other prominent interviews. You can use your first interview as a jump-off point for your media relations and PR efforts. Keep these tips in mind and remember to smile, breathe and relax. Before you know it, you'll be a media-savvy business owner.

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