Six Steps To Prepare for a Successful Press Interview. If you read these postings in order you have so far: learned how public relations is better than advertising, built a media list of contacts who cover businesses like yours, learned how to write a press release and how to follow up with reporters via phone. If you missed any of these it is easy to go back and read them. Just scroll down.
With a well-written press release, and targeted press follow up you have persuaded a reporter to interview you. That is a very good thing. Potentially. It can also be an unmitigated disaster if not planned for and executed properly. Anyone, regardless of how much experience they have in life, business or media interviews, courts disaster if not properly prepared. Anyone who says they will just “wing it” for an interview is marked for trouble. Big trouble. Imagine epic, viral failure posted everywhere. You do not want that. And frankly speaking if you are not willing to make time to prepare for a media interview, you are better served to just not do it. If possible postpone the interview or delegate it to someone who does and will make time to prepare.
The outcome of an interview should not be the result of how well the reporter is to interview you or the questions he/she asks. Reporters are busy and probably have several other interviews to do the same day as yours. You cannot rely on being asked the right question to have a positive story. Instead, you have to control the content of the interview. You control the interview based on what you choose to say and most importantly what you do not say. So knowing in advance what you intend to talk about it is vital.
Here are the steps to preparing for an interview.
- What do you want to read or hear after the interview? Literally, what do you want the headline or lead to be? Write it down. Nothing is real unless it is written down. Thinking about it is fine, but writing uses parts of the brain that will reinforce your ideas and help you both remember and think harder about the points you want published and/or broadcast.
- Think in sound bites or “must airs”. A sound bite is a short burst of information that is easy to repeat, understand, and edit. A “must air” is that point you absolutely need to make during an interview for it to be successful. A point that needs airing that you “must air” during the interview to be a success. Humans who do not have perfect memories edit TV, radio, podcasts, and even written articles. They have lots more on their minds than just your interview. So make remembering the news you want reported easy to remember by writing your “must airs” down in advance. So naturally the next step is….
- Write your sound bites/must airs down. Once you know what they are, write them down in the order of importance. A good sound bite /must air is a short declarative sentence. Like this one. Limit this list to between 3-5 items. You will have a difficult time remembering more than this and if you can’t remember them, the reporter you are talking to will have no chance of remembering them either.
- With your sound bites/must airs written down in the order of importance, edit them a bit more. Remember that shorter is better when it comes to talking with a reporter.
- Stay on message. This is especially important for people who are new to doing interviews and for those who have a lot of experience (see what I did there?). The best way to be quoted saying something stupid is to drift away from those carefully crafted must airs. Never get off topic. Your must airs are your anchor. They keep you moored to the truth that you want published/broadcast. If you find yourself getting off topic during an interview, regroup and get back on message.
- Find a friend, colleague, or your friendly public relations person and practice the interview. If you have the ability, video the session and watch it later. Over the years, I’ve found that people I work with learn more from watching themselves on video than anything else.
If people who want to use the media to promote their businesses or causes never read, hear, or learn anything from me again I hope this is it. This methodology and thinking about “must airs” will work for media interviews but that is not the limit. Use this technique for job interviews, meetings with superiors, staff, or any other challenging meeting where you are required to communicate. Anchored to your “must airs” will serve you well regardless of the venue.