You may have gotten a call or an email from a journalist who wants to interview you for a story. A media interview signals that there’s something interesting about your brand that caught the attention of the journalist, and it’s a great way to establish your company’s presence and credibility. But before you engage, it’s important to be aware of what to do – as well as what to avoid – during an interview.
Without the right preparation, a media interview can do your brand more harm than good. The last thing you want to happen is to get caught off guard during the actual interview, which can affect you or your company’s image and messaging.
Ensure positive media coverage by taking note of these do’s and don’ts when preparing for an interview.
The 5 dos when preparing for a media interview
1. Try to know the nature of the interview
Figure out what the journalist or interviewer has planned. Will it be pre-recorded or broadcast live? What angle is the reporter trying to work on? Will the segment feature competitors? Knowing the answers to these questions helps you better prepare for the big day.
2. Prepare for the interview in advance
It’s important to prepare for any media interview ahead of time – even if you think you’re comfortable with the material. This involves asking for the questions beforehand so you can go over your talking points, as well as consulting with your team on confidential information.
3. Give quotable quotes
These are often short and snappy answers. Think of your top three essential talking points, then distill them into concise and memorable “sound bites” – these assure that your important messages make it on air, even if your interview ends up being cut to a short clip.
Another way to approach this is through providing proof points, case studies and even anecdotes, which are effective for printed interviews. Providing relatable and engaging backstories add colour and interest to your narrative, which can help shape the piece in a more positive light. Anecdotes also offer a richer, “behind-the-scenes” glimpse and humanises the brand or yourself as its figure – making yourself more relatable to your audience.
4. Be gracious and genuine
While we advise you to prepare for the interview in advance, also be wary of giving over-rehearsed responses. Aim to be as authentic as possible, keep your composure even with challenging questions, and always remain polite.
5. Anticipate unexpected questions
When the conversation takes a candid course, anticipate some impromptu questions – from innocent follow-ups to more sensitive queries. Stay calm when these come up, pause before answering, and think carefully about what to say next. As much as possible, redirect your answer to your original talking points.
Another technique to employ for tough questions is using bridging statements – statements that allow you to acknowledge the interviewer’s question, then let you transition to your key message. Some bridging statements to utilise in your responses include:
“I think the more important issue is”
“What matters most now”
“It all boils down to this”
These let you smoothly shift to your key points.
The 5 don'ts when preparing for a media interview
1. Don't feel pressured by the interviewer’s questions
If the conversation takes an uncomfortable turn, don’t feel the need to respond to speculative or leading questions. A simple, honest response of “I don’t know” is acceptable, especially for questions you may not entirely know the answer to. You can also volunteer to get back to the interviewer with more information once it becomes available.
2. Don't lose your cool
Interviews can sometimes turn into challenging conversations. Journalists may ask about pressing or sensitive issues that surround your industry. Never argue with the interviewer nor lose your composure. Remember – whatever you say or do in front of the journalist is fair game for publishing.
3. Divulge “off the record” information
Interviewers may press for additional, “off the record” details for richer context. However, certain things can get lost in translation – such as when off-record information begins and ends. When it comes to interviews, remember that nothing is truly off the record, and it’s best to assume that everything you say can likely be published. Err on the side of caution and avoid volunteering sensitive material that can jeopardise your brand.
4. Use industry or overly technical jargon
Speaking in technical or industry-exclusive terms can alienate the interviewer and the audience, which deters you from connecting with them. Make yourself more appealing and relatable by offering answers that are easy to understand.
5. Forget to thank the interviewer
No matter what the turn of events were during the course of the interview, never forget to end on a good note. Always remember to show gratitude for the interviewer’s time and interest in coming in to interview you.
Need help to prepare for a media interview?
Set your organisation up for successful media coverage with the right PR partner that understands the local media landscape and is equipped to deliver high-performance results.
With trusted and high-profile partnerships across Singapore, Malaysia, and Southeast Asia, Blue Totem Communications’ team of highly experienced master planners and creative strategists can provide you with honest, no-nonsense advice and perspective on the ground. Get in touch with us at bluetotem.co/contact-us today.