Getting ready for a media interview can be quite unnerving especially if it is the first time for the spokesperson. Even if the organization is relatively new in the public relations scene, media training can help it achieve success with media interview skills. The success of a media interview depends on the key messages and how well the interviewees carry themselves during the interview. Media interviews serve two major purposes that is brand awareness and when dealing with a crisis. They can either be carried through channels like television, radio, newspaper, telephone, and emails.
Asking the reporter what kind of topics they would like to cover gives the speaker a fair shake on the whole ordeal. Interviews tend to address what is currently happening in an organization or the industry. If an organization is running multiple campaigns at the same time, the one going for the interview should ask the interviewer what specific topic they want to talk about. The main idea is to answer questions and provide information and this write-up will provide the necessary skills for the next interview to be successful.
What makes a media interview successful?
A brand’s spokesperson should always strive to stick to the key message and certain actions before, during, and after the interview. From prior preparations like research to choosing clothes, body language, and how to answer the questions, the communicator will need to be on point. The following are the basics that will make a media interview memorable in the best possible way.
To ace, a media interview, the spokesperson of the organization must be familiar with interview skills that can make an interview successful. To control an interview the speaker requires to be aware of the dos and don’ts during an interview.
The basic skills of a media interview
Basic media interview skills are what will define the success of a media interview. There are media interview tips that will prove fruitful if a speaker implements them during an interview. Keeping everything simple and to a minimum will show how confident the speaker is. The reporter might want to sneak in off-topic and therefore the one being interviewed must pivot and respond using the main messages.
Developing talking points for the main topic is among the greatest tips that a speaker can participate in and yield results. Noting down an example for each talking point will also help out the speaker when they explain the key messages to the audience. In order for talking points to be effective, they must be short and straightforward. Few words will remind the person being interviewed what to talk about and hence frame an appropriate answer.
An interview follows a structure of what to do and what to avoid. The dos include a lot of research on the speaker’s part. No one can have a successful interview without the little details that have a tremendous effect on the interview’s outcome. The speaker needs to work on the 5W’s which include the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
The research will include getting to know who the interviewer is and how they handle interviews. The next research will be, what will be the topic of discussion be so the interviewee can prepare. When, determines the time factor, is it an interview done during the morning or evening? Where will be about the location of the interview, if it is for print, the interview can take place in the office. The why will help the speaker develop effective talking points. There is also the question of how which points toward the interview’s format.
Things to avoid will be to steer clear of self-promotion. The interview serves the purpose of highlighting a company and its business. It is not about an individual but a team of people who make up a company. If it is about the marketing efforts of a company, the speaker should highlight that without emphasizing an individual but rather a team and strategies used.
Before the interview
A lot of interviews require a lot of preparation. Even though interviewees speak for a short time, a lot of time will go into getting ready. From speaking to the interviewer and consulting with teammates, the interviewee can feel quite overwhelmed if they sit for the conversation unprepared.
Before engaging reporters or interviewers, it is important to prepare for the conversation in advance. Establish the kind of media channel the reporter is going to use. Do some background checks on the journalist conducting the interview. What is their style of asking questions? How long will the interview be? Is it going to be live or will it be recorded and then aired later? Will it be a written story? How many people will be in the interviewing room? These are some of the questions that a spokesperson should ask themselves so as to represent the business in the best light possible.
The person speaking to the journalist should know about the location of the interview beforehand and arrive early for last-minute checks. It is important for the spokesperson and the interviewer to try and create links to cement how they will communicate during the interview. For example, the interviewee can ask the reporter whether they can restate their answer if the first one isn’t satisfactory.
Makeup, jewelry, and even the type of clothes that one wears to media interviews will vary because of the type of channel being used. If the journalists want to record an interview, for radio or television, noise must be to a minimum. Jewelry that makes a sound, keys that shuffle or even pocket change might be distracting. For television interviews, photosensitive materials and accessories should be avoided. If makeup is offered on the set it’s a good idea to accept it because it will make the speaker appear better on screen.
Prepare for difficult questions
Even though a speaker might be aware of the direction of the conversation, reporters can ask questions that are not in the brief. If such a situation occurs, it is crucial to remember the key messages and talking points regarding the topic. A good way to prepare is by practicing communication skills through mock interviews that will shed some light on how well one can perform when gears are shifted abruptly.
Be conversant with the interview and questions
Interviews can be quite intimidating if the interviewee goes in blind. It is always a good idea to know whether you will be the only guest at the interview or there will be others. Having a location in mind will also help you prepare for the interview and avoid awkward moments during the interview. Ask the interviewer beforehand about what they would like to know. Ensure that all parties are on the same page about the questions and the story’s perspective. It would not hurt for the interviewee to anticipate questions that are not in the script.
Write down the talking points
Key messages and talking points act as a guideline and provide quick answers to questions being asked. Media interviews usually work with a key message from where the reporter’s questions can be based. When representing a business, whether marketing a product or managing a crisis, it is important to keep in mind the organization’s mission, vision, and core values at the fingertips. The three will help shed some light upon the firing of difficult questions.
Talking points need to be short and straight to the point and should cover the intended message well. No matter what the interviewer throws in during the interviewing process, ensure that the key messages come out strongly.
Practice and practice some more
Practice will give an interviewee the ease to speak about a point and that will show how prepared they are. Speak out loud in front of friends or colleagues and get feedback from them. Other people can clearly see someone’s mistake and it will be easier to correct something before the cameras start flashing. Practicing in front of a mirror will also give valuable feedback on body language and posture. Slouching and fidgeting can show that a candidate is neither confident nor comfortable. Through the use of a mirror, it is easy to see whether one can maintain eye contact and keep a check on facial expressions.
During the actual interview
Maintain eye contact and body language
A public speaker should always exude confidence when responding to a reporter’s questions. Though television and radio interviews differ quite a bit. Television interviews require the speaker to show that they are confident and hence boost their trustworthiness to the audience. Eye contact is vital as it will improve and emphasize the important point being communicated. Eye contact will also show that the spokesperson is confident and comfortable as well as bring credibility to their messages.
There are a couple of things a communicator can do to engage with the viewers and ensure that the key messages get the desired focus. Maintaining a good posture and keeping facial expressions to a minimum will also go a long way by not distracting the audience.
When being interviewed, one should sit and stand straight and avoid slouching at all costs. Fidgeting as well might mean one is not comfortable with the topic or is not in control of what they are speaking about. Having a listening face will save an interviewee from giving away facial expressions that can lead to trouble. Always exhibit openness to the conversation by not crossing arms and hence seem approachable. If the speaker is aware that they explain points using hands, it is important to keep gestures at a minimum and hands on the table.
When being interviewed, it is important to focus on the key messages in the shortest time possible. Most interviews work within time constraints and therefore the speaker should deliver answers that matter to the story. Radio and television interviews have a rigorous editing process and hence the key messages and talking points need to be on point. Having a few strong quotes will make the conversation more memorable for the reporters and audience.
Being concise will ensure that the most important talking points will reach the publication stage without losing the main points of the topic. A reporter will pick the most important sound bites as answers to the questions that the speaker will address. Short and clear answers will capture the attention of journalists.
Keep it simple when it comes to words and the language during an interview. Difficult words will not present one as smart but the audience will question whether one is there to show off or actually have a conversation. Media interviews are channels for communication and if the viewers or listeners do not understand what someone is saying, then that interview is a total fail.
Exuding confidence is one of the best ways to show preparedness as a brand’s spokesperson. It shows that the speaker is comfortable answering and explaining the questions presented. Being prepared will give the speaker an advantage of authority on the key messages and credibility to the business and audience.
Be real when being interviewed. Let the viewers see you as a person and not only as the face of a brand. When called out to speak, let your audience see what you are experiencing, whether happiness or sadness, and let it come through. The audience needs to connect with what the speaker is presenting.
Restate the key message
While it is essential to listen keenly to what a reporter is asking, it is equally essential to answer carefully and accurately. If the speaker does not frame their answer as desired, they should ask for an opportunity to repeat their answers. A good example will be to simply say or ask, “can I say that again?’ or “can I clarify that?” The audience mostly focuses on the answers and so they should be on point and capture the attention of the audience.
Control the interview
When a difficult topic comes up, it is crucial to focus on the key message no matter the interest of the reporter and the audience. Be sure to answer the question but ensure the answers revolve around the key messages. A great skill to use will be the bridging technique which after giving the answer, follow up with phrases like, ” that said, the important thing is followed by the key message. If questions feel overwhelming, take a moment or pause for a while as you internalize before answering the reporter.
Answering off the record questions
In a situation where the speaker wants to talk about something off the record, it might be a good idea to refrain. Reporters are out to get the story not to care about an organization and its thoughts on such and such. If a brand’s spokesperson doesn’t want something to reach publication, the best route is to not say it. As difficult as it may be, refraining will be the best action to take.
After the interview
After a media interview, it is courteous to thank the interviewers. After all, they have given an organization the opportunity to present and deliver its message and story to the audience. Appreciating the time that reporters have invested in the interview will go a long way in securing future interviews. What a speaker can do is send a simple “thank you” note or email.
How to prepare for the next interview
Most interviews undergo an extensive editing process. This is the time to evaluate the efforts and measure the results. Looking at what content made to publication will provide an inkling of how to handle future interviews. If your organization has received that call from a journalist asking for an interview, Murnahan Public Relations is ready to give you the necessary media interview skill training.
We offer training and tips for executives to navigate media interviews without a problem. Any person who acts as a brand’s spokesperson needs to develop and write effective talking points. We also offer feedback to the companies we work with about their performance in media training. Before the cameras start flashing, your organization needs a presentation strategy. Contact Murnahan Public Relations today to get help with media training that will help your firm advance in handling media interviews.