Fear of media interviews comes from the anxiety and fear of answering a question incorrectly or in a way that can be taken out of context, reflecting poorly on yourself and your organization. The best way to get around this fear is to prepare for interviews in advance. Working with a public relations agency can help you better prepare for an interview with training and support through the entire process.
A PR agency can not only advise on the type of interview you will be participating in, but can also help you determine what a journalist would most like to discuss and suggest interview topics to them. The agency can also help you craft key messages and coach you on how to best deliver them.
It’s important to know the background of the journalist that is interviewing you, the format of the interview and what topics the journalist would like to discuss. Look at recent stories the journalist has published, which will give insight into their style and interests.
The interview will be used for a print or online article or a radio or television segment, and the interview will be completed over the phone or in-person. If it’s an in-person broadcast interview determine if it will be a live or prerecorded to air at a later date and time.
Do your research
You’re being interviewed as an expert on the topic, so be sure you’re up-to-date on the topic you’re being interviewed about including the latest industry news and media coverage.
Breakdown the main information you want to share into three key messages or pieces of information you want the audience to take away from the interview. Key messages should consist of a short, clear and concise statement followed by a positive supporting point that validates the message, these points can include statistics, analogies or examples.
Be sure to state your organization’s name whenever speaking about it instead of using “we”. This helps the audience remember who you are representing and some audience members may tune in late to the interview and miss your introduction. The interview will likely be edited, so if you say “we” instead of the organization’s name, the name may not be included in the final story or segment.
When delivering key messages you can emphasize critical messages by using language and non-verbal techniques, called underscoring. Underscoring helps the reporter and audience identify what information is important during the interview. Using gestures, eye contact, leaning into the reporter and voice inflection helps get your point across. Additional phrases you can use to stress importance are:
- “It is important you know…”
- “It is vital to remember that…”
- “I want to stress…”
Bridging is a technique to use when you feel the interview is getting off track or if asked something you don’t wish to discuss. Bridging is a way to bring the conversation back to your key messages, to share new information and share more of your story. Phrases you can use for bridging include:
- “Before we get off that subject let me add…”
- “That’s very interesting, but first let me make the point…”
- “What’s important to remember, however…”
- “Let me just add…”
- “That reminds me…”
- “Another thing to remember is…”
- “While ___ is certainly important, don’t forget that…”
Repeating key messages in different ways helps reinforce your points with the reporter and audience. Practice delivering your key messages in different ways with a family member or friend. Practicing will help boost your confidence in the delivery of messages and ease the anxiety of media interviews.
All this preparation will lead to successful media interviews, contributing to the shaping of your personal image and your organization’s reputation, both with journalists and the community. Finally, remember to have fun. The reporter wants to speak with you because they’re interested in what you have to say and what insight you can share with them and their audience.
By Mackenzie Whitfield, Account Executive