Now it’s time to make certain you or your spokesperson are completely prepared to tackle the actual interview.
Become familiar with the media outlet requesting the interview. Answer the simple, but essential questions of interest, including:
What is the publication/media and who is the reporter?
Who is the target audience?
When is the reporter’s deadline? Where and how will the interview occur, and how long is it expected to last?
What is the subject of the interview?
Determine who in your organization is the most appropriate spokesperson to relay key messages and contribute experience and interest to this opportunity. After deciding, schedule a meeting a couple of days before the interview to media train your spokesperson. During your meeting, provide the spokesperson with a fact sheet specifically regarding this interview. Your fact sheet should include:
Information about the publication/media
Topic of the interview
Key messages your client wants highlighted by the interview
Possible questions the reporter might ask
Short synopsis of recent articles/interviews on topic
For a television interview, be cognizant of you or your spokesperson’s wardrobe decisions. Classic, conservative, solid colors, similar to what you would expect a politician to wear, appear best on any filmed background. If the interview will be conducted over the phone, make sure you or your spokesperson has access to a quiet room or office with a good connection.
On the day of the interview, discuss any questions you or your spokesperson may have one hour to 30 minutes prior to the interview. Provide him or her with a fact sheet used during media training days before. Review the sheet and be certain that all the messaging is comprehensible and easy to explain at eighth grade reading level. If the reporter provides questions in advance, be sure to double check and fact check your outlined responses for accuracy.
Additionally, we have provided below a quick list of dos and don’ts for you or your spokesperson to have on hand when preparing for an interview. Add these bullets to an interview prep sheet, and your spokesperson will have an easy reference guide for a successful and informative interview.
DOs & DON’Ts FOR A SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW:
Use the name of the company when answering questions, but don’t overdo it.
Speak in easily-understandable terms.
Use facts and figures when appropriate to demonstrate credibility, but be completely comfortable citing them, as you will be quoted.
Be aware of hidden issues (agendas) that the reporter might bring up, e.g. lawsuits, turnover, family feuds, etc. Prepare key messages regarding these topics.
Use an outline including facts, examples and anecdotes to illustrate your key messages.
Take your time. It’s ok to pause to answer a question thoughtfully.
Always tell the truth.
Don’t get defensive, confrontational or hostile. Stay calm.
Beware of speculation or hypothetical situations or questions.
Don’t rattle off team members names; multiple names can confuse the audience.
Don’t criticize your competitors.
There is no such thing as “off the record.”
Never say “no comment.”
Implementing all the above will help prepare you or your spokesperson for any media interview, but what’s most important to your interviewing success is that you provide the reporter with what they are looking for—something new. Whether it’s a new product, service, unique partnership, etc., be prepared to talk about your news and what the benefits are for that particular audience. This will keep the media engaged with you or your spokesperson and likely keep them interested in the possibility for future follow up and other news items from your organization.