Tips on Prepping for Media Interviews
Ask the media outlet before the interview:
• What kind of interview is it – radio, television, or print? Will it be live or recorded?
• How many interviewers will there be?
• How long will the interview be?
• How many topics will be covered? Set parameters on your expertise.
• If broadcast: Will you be the only person interviewed, or will it be a panel or debate format?
• Note: If print, you don’t have to do the interview on the spot. You can get all this info, prep, and call the person back later.
Ask your employer before the interview:
• What are you allowed to say? Will the interview raise concerns about your non-profit’s tax exempt status?
• What subjects are you cleared to speak on?
• What are some frequently asked questions about your organization? Know the answers. How does your organization define itself? How is it funded?
• Are there any touchy issues unrelated to your interview topic that could come up in a media interview? (Eg. personnel matters, rumors, etc.)
Prepare and study before the interview:
• Answers to all the questions mentioned above.
• Top three subject-matter talking points that you want to get in, with more supporting info (anecdotes, statistics) in case you have more time to flesh them out.
• Questions that are being asked in the media on the interview topic.
• Bridging phrases for all seasons. “I don’t know, but what I do know is … ,” “That’s not the main point. The point is … ,” “That’s a good question. What we’re concerned about is … .”
• Know the first thing you’re going to say when they jump to you (broadcast). This may be the only thing you get to say.
During the interview:
• Remember, you are in control. You don’t have to answer a question you don’t want to answer. You will answer the questions on your terms, with your answers. If you decide ahead of time that you will be unflappable, you’re well on your way to being unflappable.
• Breathe. Take a second before launching into your answer.
• Smile. Even if you’re on radio – you can hear it.
• If it’s a panel or debate: You must be assertive. Otherwise, the segment will pass you by.
• If print or a recorded interview where you will be edited: Do not stray from your message, no matter how weird you sound saying the same talking points over and over.
• Think about your audience: It’s the person on the other side of the reporter. Don’t think of it as talking to an interviewer, but getting your message through to the other side.
• Remember: It’s not a conversation.