How to Master Media Interviews: A Tipsheet
So you landed an interview with a well-respected reporter. Congrats! The story they publish or clip they air will be amazing for your business – if you get the interview right.
In today's rapid-fire, 24-hour news cycle, it's easy for one misinterpreted or out-of-context quote to become a viral social media story. With the right strategies, though, you'll be able to give a clear, on-message interview – even if the journalist veers off track.
Here are a few key media relations skills you can master and take into your next interview.
Speak in sound bites.
When you're responding to interview questions, less is more. You want to give enough to fully address the question, but you can't expect a reporter to pick up the "best parts" of your answer if you give a long-winded diatribe. Remember that the best quotes are short, memorable and and oftentimes impactful. Practice saying your key messages, out loud, until they flow as short, strong, 1-sentence statements.
Think like a journalist.
It's unrealistic to expect that a reporter will only ask you about the brand messages you want to share. However, you won't always get to see your interview questions ahead of time, so it's important to put yourself in a journalist's shoes. Based on the writers’ beat and the publication they’re writing for, consider what information might add context and flavor to their story. Be prepared to have a two-way conversation, and arm yourself to answer any tough questions.
Be mindful of what you say.
Just like in a court of law, anything you say to a reporter can be quoted, which may or may not paint you and your company in the best light. Unless you have explicit confirmation that something you say is "off the record," be mindful about what you say, how you say it, and what you’re willing to share. The general rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t want to see it in a story, don’t say it.
Know your message.
Have a plan for highlighting your single most important brand message. Journalists will usually signal the end of an interview by asking you if there's anything else you'd like to add. Use this opportunity to reiterate that message to make it stick in the reporter's mind.
Learn to redirect.
Although you may feel well-prepared for your media interview, there's always a chance a writer could ask a left-field question. Don't get flustered or defensive if a journalist throws out a seemingly irrelevant question. Instead, gracefully redirect the conversation toward a topic that's more appropriate for the interview at hand.
Keep the conversation going.
After the interview, be sure to thank the journalist for their time. Follow up afterwards to offer yourself as a resource in the future, and let them know you're available to clarify or add to your responses.
The art of handling media interviews is like any other skill -- it gets stronger the more you use it. For more tips, check out an earlier version of this article on Entrepreneur.com.