Media Training Tips: Dos & Don’ts for a Great Interview

So, you’re doing a media interview. Congratulations! Your message may soon reach hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people. That’s fantastic for you and your organization, but let’s be honest: it can also be nerve-wracking. In fact, a recent poll we conducted on our social media channels revealed that over 67% of respondents admitted to feeling nervous before media interviews.

Don’t worry, these pre-interview jitters are perfectly normal. Even the most practiced interviewees experience them. To help you conquer those nerves, we’re diving into the intricacies of media interaction, uncovering strategies to help you navigate interviews with finesse and achieve your communication goals effectively. Here are 12 dos and don’ts from our team of experts on preparing for an interview and answering questions from reporters:

Do:

  1. Prioritize preparation.
  2. Deliver your message, regardless of the question.
  3. Keep your target audience in mind.
  4. Have an anecdote to share.
  5. Harness the power of social media.
  6. Foster media relationships.

Don’t:

  1. Say anything “off the record”.
  2. Lose focus  – be short and to the point.
  3. Use industry jargon.
  4. Be afraid of silence.
  5. Sacrifice the truth for sensationalism.
  6. Lose your temper or burn bridges.

In need of media coaching? We offer one-on-one or group PR coaching in media relations so you can be an effective ambassador for your organization. Schedule your training today!

 

Dos:

Prioritize preparation.

Before stepping into any media interview, it’s crucial to have a game plan. Know why you are there and what success looks like. Preparation will lead to a successful media interview.

To do that, take the time to craft a clear and concise message that aligns with your organization’s objectives and resonates with your target audience. Try to read your reporter’s previous five stories. Know what they are looking for. Research common questions, brainstorm potential curveballs, and rehearse clear, concise answers.

Having an idea of how the interviewer will take your conversation can help you plan your responses accordingly. This preparation will boost your confidence and composure, allowing you to stay on message and handle any question thrown your way, including the questions you REALLY hope aren’t asked.

Deliver your message, regardless of the question.

So many times, people get derailed by their interviewer’s questions. It happens all the time: a reporter asks about something that isn’t relevant to your story, and you answer it anyway because you think it’s the polite or appropriate thing to do. But that throws off the delivery of your key message. It distracts the viewers who would rather hear about what matters—your business, campaign, updates on a crisis, or whatever else is at stake.

Keep your target audience in mind.

When you’re preparing for a media interview, it’s essential to keep your target audience front and center in your mind. Pretend that the people interviewing you are the people you’re trying to reach. Tailor your message directly to them, prioritizing their interests and concerns.

Understanding your audience is vital, so consider their demographics, like age and lifestyle, but also delve deeper into their psychographics – their hopes, fears, and what excites them. Anticipate their questions, address potential biases, know their hot buttons, and hit them with the relevant information they seek. This audience-centric approach will make viewers feel like you’re speaking directly to them, boosting engagement and impact.

Have an anecdote to share.

One of the most potent ways to make a great impression during an interview is to share an anecdote about your experience or message. The more granular you can make the story, the better. Don’t just tell me about the sky, tell me about the colors you see, the shape of the clouds, and the placement of the sun on the horizon.

Well-executed storytelling will help you grab your audience’s attention and engage them in what you say about yourself and your field of expertise. It’ll also give them something to remember you by after the interview has ended, which can lead to more opportunities down the road!

Harness the power of social media.

Recognize that you hold the key to even more people seeing your media story. Think about what kind of quotes or content you want to repackage for social media. Use these platforms to target your audience with the most relevant content. You can also participate in conversations and showcase thought leadership, effectively extending the reach of your media engagement efforts. Challenge yourself to find twelve ways to share the media coverage on social media when it happens.

Foster media relationships.

Make the first move. Offer valuable data and stories on topics on which you have expertise. Building genuine relationships with journalists, editors, and micro-influencers can significantly enhance your media engagement efforts. Be accessible and responsive when approached for interviews or comments, and strive to understand their needs and preferences. Cultivating these connections can lead to valuable opportunities for coverage and collaboration.

 

Don’ts:

Say anything “off the record.”

You can always request that a reporter leave something out of their story, but once you’ve said something on camera or to them on the phone—whether about your business or not—you can’t take it back if it turns out it makes the piece more interesting. Our advice? If you don’t want it on the record – don’t say it – at all. Nothing is “off the record.”

Lose focus  – be short and to the point.

Stay focused on the conversation and avoid rambling. Craft concise and confident answers, even if you don’t have all the details readily available. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t know the answer right now, but I’d be happy to follow up with you after the interview.” Remember, your key messages are your guiding light.  Keep them in mind and deliver clear, informative responses while listening attentively to the interviewer’s cues. This ensures a productive exchange of ideas and leaves a positive impression.

Use industry jargon.

The most important thing to remember is the reader’s or viewer’s language. Don’t include industry terminology or acronyms that no one outside your immediate circle would understand. As with any type of communication, if you want your message to be understood, it needs to be written at an appropriate level of complexity for the intended audience.

Be afraid of silence.

It’s okay to take a break between answering questions and thinking about what you want to say, especially if it’s an important point or something new that hasn’t been discussed yet. Reporters will often use our natural discomfort with silence to see if they can lead us into filling the silence with the one thing we hope we don’t say out loud. Don’t fall for it. Just smile and wait for the next question.

Sacrifice the truth for sensationalism.

In the age of clickbait headlines and fake news, maintaining accuracy and integrity is more important than ever. DO NOT LIE. Avoid creating sensational headlines or exaggerating facts to grab attention, as this can damage your reputation and undermine the credibility of your message. Stick to the truth, even if it means sacrificing a bit of drama. You may also just want to prepare yourself to have your seemingly reasonable response to a question turned into a dramatic headline.

Lose your temper or burn bridges.

Stay cool under pressure, even if you disagree with a question or reporter’s approach. You are less likely to lose your cool if you have done your homework and prepared for the hard questions.

Remember, your goal is to communicate effectively with your target audience. Getting defensive or burning bridges with the media can damage your reputation and limit future opportunities. If you have an issue with a question or the interview, address it calmly and privately with the reporter after the interview.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Ghost / Do Follow Up

After engaging with the media, pay attention to the importance of follow-up and feedback. Thank journalists for their coverage, address any inaccuracies or misunderstandings, and solicit input on improving future interactions. Building positive relationships requires ongoing communication and engagement. You don’t like to be ghosted, and neither do reporters.

Effective media interviews and engagement require a strategic approach, genuine relationships, and a commitment to authenticity and integrity. By following these additional do’s and don’ts, you can confidently navigate media interviews, maximize your impact, and build meaningful connections with journalists and audiences. Remember, preparation, professionalism, and honesty are the keys to success in the ever-evolving media landscape.

Unlock your Confidence with Media Coaching Services

Our one-on-one or group media trainings provide the tools and techniques you need to excel in any media situation. Learn how to think on your feet, handle challenging questions gracefully, and deliver your message with clarity and impact. Schedule your personalized training session today and watch your media confidence soar!

Looking for more interview tips? Check out 3 Media Relations Tips to Make Your Next Interview a Slam Dunk

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