Media interviews are a fact of business life. Your business media pitch has been accepted and now it is time to stand in front of millions of viewers and represent your organization. Don’t be nervous, executives and managers should expect to get in front of a camera or speak to a phone interview or to answer questions posed by the public, to provide information about upcoming developments, or to counteract public relations crises.
Done right, media interviews can bolster your brand and lead to major positives for your company. But it’s tough to respond to media interviews correctly, especially if you haven’t been trained beforehand! Today, we’ll explore 10 media interview tips you can use the next time you answer questions about your company or spread the word about a bold new initiative.
Why Giving Good Media Interviews is a Business Priority
Let’s be frank – no one loves to be in the spotlight or speak for their company, especially if the interview is about a recent or upcoming controversy. However, executives have a major responsibility to take interviews seriously and to make sure that every interview they sit for paints their brand in a positive light.
Interviews, whether intended to promote your brand or to stir up controversy, are opportunities to control the narrative around your business. More specifically, interviews can:
- Help you correct misinformation about your organization
- Help you promote an upcoming product release or new development
- Inform the public about the good your company is doing
- Help to curb or prevent a public relations crisis
In a way, a good media interview can do more for your public relations efforts in a few minutes than many weeks or months of marketing or careful message control. Therefore, it pays to know how to master upcoming interviews and make them work for you rather than damage your brand.
Not sure where to start? Let’s break down 10 media interview tips you can use the next time you sit in front of a camera or have a phone interview. Read on to see how to crush your media interview.
Media Interview Preparation Checklist
A successful interview is always one you prepare for. Therefore, you should practice a few media interview prep strategies before your time in front of the camera arrives. These include but are not limited to:
Do Your Research
Studying the interviewer or journalist in question. If you know who is interviewing you, you’ll be able to partially predict the types of questions they’ll ask. This way, you can have your answers prepped beforehand and won’t be blindsided by a question meant to make you look like you’re confused or lying
Make Your Points
Preparing a list of your key objectives or goals from the interview. If you know why you are sitting down for the interview in question, you’ll be able to keep control of the conversation and ensure that your public relations or marketing goals are met by the time the cameras go off.
Visualize for the Win
Mentally run through any questions you think are probably going to come up.
Demonstrate Your Humanity
Don’t be a robot. Come up with similes or metaphors for complex topics you may have to break down.
Adjust for the Interview Format
Write down notes and anecdotes or examples about your brand – these can be great for phone interviews, as you are not on camera and can use notecards as much as you like.
If you prepare for an upcoming interview enough, you will look and sound prepared as well. Listeners or viewers are more inclined to think positively about a brand or its executives if that executive seems like they have all the answers or are in control of the situation. In other words, how you speak and what you look like are just as important as what you say.
Get the Facts Straight
However, you need to be careful not to accidentally lie or fabricate information when presenting statistics or proof points. Even if you misspeak a bit, some may present this as evidence of deliberate falsehood, not a simple flub in a stressful situation.
Therefore, take some time to get your facts straight and make sure that all the statistics, numbers, or hard evidence you plan to present during the interview are accurate. Again, write these down on notecards if you like, and make sure that your PR team does plenty of research. The last thing you want to do is seem ignorant or less than knowledgeable about your industry or niche.
You should also know the sources of the facts you plan to present to the interviewer. For example, if you cite a statistic but the interviewer asks you where you got your information, you need to know that the information is valid or legitimate. Otherwise, the interviewer may simply dismiss the facts you present to strengthen your case.
Present Good Body Language
When you sit down for a video or TV interview, your body language will impact how people receive your message possibly more than anything you say. Anywhere between 60% and 80% of a message is conveyed through nonverbal cues, including how you said, how you use your hands, and your facial expressions.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to practice your body language with a body language coach or at least your PR crisis manager. Specifically, you should do things like:
- Holding or using your hands in natural ways, such as waving them around positively, keeping them clasped calmly in your lap, or something else. Don’t let your hands hang loosely by your side and be sure not to clench your fists!
- Keep a calm and confident expression on your face. Note that this doesn’t have to be a smile all the time. Smiling at the wrong time can make you seem illegitimate or socially awkward
- Don’t lean away from the interviewer. Maintain eye contact and look like you are engaged in the conversation
If you practice each of these techniques, you’ll seem calm and collected during your media interview. The public will be more willing to listen to and believe what you say. By extension, they will also come away with a more positive impression of your brand.
Look at the Right Place
As the interviewee for a media interview, you should also know where to look. This depends on the media interview you are sitting for. For example, if you are interviewing a known TV or radio host, you should look directly at them for the duration of the interview.
In contrast, if your interview is more generalized and meant to speak to the public, be sure to look straight into the camera. Keep all of the above body language tips in mind, of course. But tailor them to the audience you’re speaking to during your interview.
Stick to Key Messages
As your media interview progresses, be sure to stick to a few key messages. The simpler and shorter a key message is, the better. Simpler key message points are harder for your target audience to forget and are more likely to remain in the minds of the public long after the interview has concluded.
Sticking to key messages provides ancillary benefits as well. For example, if you have a few key talking points you go back to again and again, you seem consistent and determined throughout the interview process. This, in turn, makes you seem better to the public or any other viewers.
Additionally, they give you fewer opportunities to mess up your message or be tricked by the interviewer. Don’t let the interviewer take you down conversational paths you aren’t prepared for or distract you from your core messages.
Your core messages, of course, should be tailored toward your brand goals. For example, if you want to promote a new company eco-friendly initiative, your key messages should be things like:
- The benefits of the eco-friendly initiative
- How you will undertake the initiative
- What changes consumers will see from your brand
Come Up with Strong Quotes
To assist with message retention, it may help to come up with a few strong quotes ahead of time. As an added bonus, reporters and other interviewers love soundbites that they can use throughout their coverage of the story. Learn what media outlets want in an interview here.
That means you need to come up with said soundbites or quotes ahead of the interview. Speak to your PR crisis manager or someone else you trust and figure out ways to distill your key messages into memorable, impressive-sounding sentences. These should be short, simple, and to the point in all cases.
Then, present the interviewer with the quotes when it is appropriate. However, try to avoid repeating the strong quotes over and over again, as doing so will make you seem unprepared or that you’re leaning too hard on the soundbites to carry your message.
You should also reduce or eliminate jargon in your interview. Jargon includes any technical terms or phrases that only people knee-deep in your industry will understand. They can make your interview seem complex or confusing to viewers or listeners and may lead to people tuning out of your message.
On top of that, including jargon in your message may cause the interviewer to ask for clarification again and again. This hamstrings your progress and slows down the interview. Before you go on TV or the radio, speak to your PR team and have them review your prepared phrases or quotes. They can make sure you don’t include jargon and that everything you have to say is easily understandable by laypeople.
When sitting for a media interview, you need to talk about yourself to some extent. However, you should avoid self-promotion, which makes you seem conceited or arrogant. This is especially true if you are sitting for a reporter interview about your brand or a new company initiative.
Remember, the interview is about your company, not you as a person. Don’t divert the conversation into anecdotes or tales about your personal life, aspirations, or achievements.
Don’t Dodge Questions
You should also avoid dodging questions. Some interviewers will certainly ask you tough questions or try to catch you off-guard. But instead, you should stick to your key messages and divert the conversation back to topics you are familiar and comfortable with if necessary.
Be sure to answer any tough questions head-on, though. If you avoid the question entirely or say that you would prefer not to answer, it makes it seem like you have something to hide or that you don’t think the public will approve of your true answer.
Ask for Elaboration/Repeats
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask the reporter or interviewer to repeat the question. For example, if a reporter asks you a question that’s overly technical or that you don’t know the answer to off-the-cuff, tell them so or ask them to repeat it. People appreciate humility from business owners/executives when delivered in small doses. Plus, simply being honest and saying that you need elaboration or the question to be repeated comes off as more genuine than answering incorrectly or trying to bluff your way to confidence.
Need even more interview tips? Check out this article for how to learn the basics of interviewing.
Are you Ready for Media Interviews?
Ultimately, learning the right behaviors, wardrobe guidelines, and preparation techniques for a media interview takes time and practice. A business owner may not have tons of time to strategize how they will handle new interviews or answer a reporter’s questions. That’s where Murnahan Public Relations comes in.
As a knowledgeable public relations firm, we’re well equipped and ready to help you master media interviews in a variety of ways. We can offer media training for you and your staff, provide your brand with staff members to assist with media prep or public relations, and even give you, the executive, unbiased feedback about your performance. All of this will help ensure that your future interviews yield stellar results.
Why wait? Make sure that your next interview works for your brand instead of against it by contacting Murnahan Public Relations today!