How to ace your date with the media

Being approached by a journalist to do media interviews can be both unnerving and rewarding. After months of endless emails, phone calls and pitching, you’ve finally scored yourself the ideal opportunity to catapult your SME to the next level, so it’s important that you get it right on your date with the media.

You can’t control the media, but you can control how well you handle media interviews and communicate your message. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you prepare for your date with the reporter.

Gather the facts. Preparing for a media interview is similar to preparing for a job opportunity. Take some time to research the reporter and her publication. Get familiar with her tone and audience by looking at past interviews and articles.

Have a well-rounded understanding of your business and industry. Go over recent press releases, events and service announcements to brush up on the recent happenings in your industry. Gather facts and statistics that support your message. This will help you prepare for any tricky questions the reporter may throw at you.

Define your key messages. One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that interviews are simply a matter of answering questions. This helps the journalist get what she wants but it doesn’t necessarily allow you to communicate your key messages. Create an outline of two to three key messages you’d like to discuss during the interview. These messages should be well simple, consistent and tied to your company’s core values.

Practice. Run through your talking points with a colleague or employee by holding a mock interview. Much like football teams examine and review footage from previous games, recording the interview can help you recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and better prepare for the real deal.

Use bridging statements. While preparing in advance does help you stay calm when faced with aggressive and difficult questions, it’s equally important that your answers don’t sound too rehearsed. Listen to the journalist’s questions and seamlessly integrate your key messages and statements. The best way to do this is to apply the ABC technique – Answer the question, Bridge, Communicate your message. This will help you move the interview back to the territory you want to cover.

Think before you speak. This one’s obvious – don’t say anything that could negatively impact your credibility or reputation. And never assume sarcasm will be translated as you’d like it to.

Never assume you’re off the record. Assume every single word you say will be on tomorrow’s front page.

Never say “no comment.” Journalists often take “no comment” as meaning you have something to hide. If you really don’t have the answer to the question or if someone else would be better suited to answer it, be honest and fess up.

Have good body language. Communicate with warmth, intelligence, honesty and enthusiasm both through your words and body language. If you convey uncertain body language (e.g. poor eye contact and posture) and a lack of vocal conviction (mumbling), people are more likely to trust the non-verbal signals than the verbal ones.

Be yourself. The most successful interviewees—the ones that journalists want to interview over and over again—are authentic and natural, so keep your language as conversational as possible and just relax during media interviews!

Jo Scard

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