Four Key Steps to Take Before Your Next Media Interview

An interview with media – no matter if the story is directly about your company or you’re being positioned as a thought leader to discuss a local, national or international issue – is a great chance to distinguish yourself and your organization. If you aren’t prepared for the interview, the chance of distinguishing yourself for better or worse is going to be up in the air.

Prior to your media interview, review these four tips and make sure you’re ready to nail the interview.

What are your key messages?

Determining your top three key messages prior to an interview is the single most important thing you can do to set yourself up for success. To build out your key messages, think through the top three things that you want to appear in the final product that comes out of your interview. If you could handpick those quotes, what would you want them to be?
Once you have those top three items identified, write them down. Put them on your white board, write them down on a sheet of paper or just put them on post-its on your desk – whatever will help you remember them best.
Then practice, practice and practice some more. Think through the possible questions the reporter might ask and how you can get back to your key messages. The more you can deliver these messages, the greater the chance they will be the key messages that make it into the final article or piece.

Are you ready for the tough questions?

Even in a positive interview there are likely questions you don’t really want to answer. You know these questions. They’re the ones that make your stomach squirm and head spin just thinking about how you might answer. Got the list yet?
Once you have the list, tackle these questions first and get your answers ready well before the interview. The more you practice a response to these answers, preferably getting back to your key messages, the easier it will be when the reporter asks it during the interview.
Not sure how to cross from a tough question to your key messages? Just use a bridge!
The bridging technique is an easy way to acknowledge the question, pivot back toward the subject you want to discuss and then deliver your key message.
How does this work in practice? Let’s look at this example:
Q: Does a weakening housing market mean we’re heading for a recession? Is the bubble finally bursting in housing?
A: I don’t want to speculate on where the market is heading. The real issue here is we just don’t have enough supply in the housing market.
In this example, we acknowledge the question but refuse to speculate and actually answer the question.
The phrase, “the real issue here” is the bridge that is used to get away from the original question, and the lack of supply is our key message.
The more you practice answering tough questions and using the bridging technique, the easier this will get.

Your Body is Talking

Ok, you’ve got your key messages and you’re prepared to answer the tough questions. But is your body ready?
Depending on the type of interview you are doing, it’s important to remember that your body language often conveys more than the words coming out of your mouth. And for reporters, your body language is fair game for the camera or for description in print/online pieces. So, be ready and
know how to prevent your body from sending the wrong signals.
On Camera
If your interview will be on camera, know that the camera will catch every one of your interactions from the moment you are in front of it and until the reporter walks out of the room. Even if the reporter isn’t recording every second, treat it as if they are. The same goes for microphones. Always assume they are on and everything said is fair game for reporting.
If the interview will be standing, put your legs shoulder-width apart and then put one foot slightly in front of the other. This allows you to move during the interview, which is completely natural. The catch, it forces you to move forward or backward, rather than side-to-side. A side-to-side motion is distracting and also makes it hard for a cameraperson to keep you in the shot.
If the interview is sitting down, don’t sit back in the chair and get comfortable. Comfort is the enemy, you want to be alert and ready to deliver your key messages. Instead, sit on the edge of the chair and anchor one foot under the edge of the chair. Put your other leg out and let it anchor you so that you can, again, move forward or backward as needed. This helps you sit up straight and keeps you on alert as the interview goes on.
In-person (print/online/radio)
The same principals apply as with TV interviews. Don’t let yourself get comfortable. Keep yourself focused on the key messages you’d like to deliver and the reporter in front of you.
Phone interview
Yes, your body is still talking over the phone. It comes through in your voice if you are slouched in your chair just waiting to get off the call.
To prevent this, stand up and look directly at your key messages. Have them in front of you ready to go. If you sit down, you are more likely to slouch and get comfortable during the interview. If you’re comfortable, you might say something off the cuff as if you were with co-workers, rather than in a formal interview session.
Finally, smile. Smile and think confidence. That will come through over the phone and help you deliver your key messages with gusto.

Remember Who You’re Trying to Reach

Your key messages are set. You’ve practiced the hard questions and you know how your body is talking. But before you’re fully ready, there’s just one more thing.
Remember who you are trying to reach with this interview. Though the reporter is the obvious individual, your key audience that will be reading the story or watching/listening to the report is really who you should be speaking to with your answers. The reporter is going to help you reach that audience with their final story. They’re not there for you to convince or change the mind of the reporter, so don’t spend your time trying to do so.
Focus on delivering your key messages directly to the audience you want to reach.
Taking these steps is a great way to ensure that you put your best foot forward in any interview situation. Prepare for every interview as if the future of your company depends on it, because for some interviews, it could. Know your key messages, prepare for the tough questions, control your body language and think of your audience. Now you’re ready to go, it’s interview time!