The Do’s and Don’ts of Media Interviews
You’ve just received a call from a journalist asking for a media interview about you, your company, or as an industry commentator – what do you do?
Being featured in the media can be an incredible opportunity to raise awareness for you and your brand. However, the idea of being interviewed can also be terrifying. So how do you protect yourself and prepare?
When faced with the chance of being featured in the media there are some key do’s and don’ts relating to preparation and participation that will help you ensure you are ready and that your brand is presented in the best light.
How to Prepare for a Media Interview
Preparation is key to a successful media interview. With the right level of preparation, you can confidently deliver your message and connect with the audience.
The Do’s of Preparing for an Interview
- Research the media type and outlet:
Take time to find out who your interviewer is, and ask what program or publication they are from. Is it a radio or television interview, or are you talking to a print journalist over the phone? You need to know who you are talking to, because this will help you tailor your messaging.
- Identify your key messages:
Know what you want to say, and how you are going to say it. Make sure you have your key messages and supporting facts ready to go no matter what the journalist decides to discuss.
- Dress appropriately:
Dress to impress, while also being practical. You need to know what type of interview you are doing, because this will affect what you should wear. If it’s TV, wear block colours and have clean lines. If you are promoting your brand, make sure you have a logo clearly visible on your shirt. Avoid chunky jewellery and busy patterns, this can be distracting for the viewer, and they will pay more attention to what you are wearing than what you have to say.
The Don’ts of Preparing for an Interview
- Don’t limit the topic:
Avoid telling a journalist they can’t ask a certain question or run a specific story. They will most likely ask you difficult questions you aren’t prepared for, so come ready with bridging techniques to redirect the interview back to your key messages.
- Don’t get too comfortable:
Don’t assume it’s a conversation or just a friendly chat. The journalist is there to work, so use this is an opportunity to tell the audience what you want them to hear.
- Don’t over practice:
Reciting answers word for word will make you sound robotic and insincere. The journalist is also very unlikely to provide you with questions prior to the interview, so you’d be practicing answers to questions you might not even get asked.
How to Answer Media Interview Questions
During the media interview you may be asked a range of questions that can seem daunting and overwhelming. These tips can help you effectively and confidently understand how to conduct a media interview.
The Do’s of Answering Media Questions
- Be clear and concise:
Aim to structure your answers to be short and straight to the point. Don’t ramble on about things that the journalist doesn’t care about.
- Practice Active Listening:
Listen to the question being asked and pause for a second or two to gather your thoughts before answering. This will help you stay focused and avoid getting off topic.
3. Be aware of your body language:
If you are being filmed, it is crucial you are mindful of your body language. You want to appear confident to not only the audience, but also the journalist. As much as it might make you uncomfortable, maintaining eye contact is crucial in an interview.
The Don’ts of Answering Media Questions
- Don’t get defensive or argumentative:
Appearing defensive or argumentative can make you seem unprofessional. Instead, stay calm and respond thoughtfully.
- Don’t be speculative:
If you’re unsure about the answer to a question don’t guess or be speculative as it can damage your credibility.
3. Don’t use jargon or technical terms:
Unless you are speaking to a specialised audience avoid using terms that may alienate or confuse your audience.
How to Decline a Media Interview
While media interviews can be a valuable way to promote your message and reach a wider audience, there may be times when you need to decline an interview.
The Do’s of Declining a Media Interview
- Be prompt:
If you know you cannot do the interview, let the journalist know as soon as possible. It is important to maintain a positive relationship with them as you may need them as an ally in the future.
- Provide a reason:
Providing a reason and thanking them for the opportunity can help the journalist understand your perspective and maintain your relationship with them.
- Offer alternatives:
If you still want to help the journalist, you could provide them with a written response or suggest another spokesperson.
The Don’ts of Declining a Media Interview
- Never say “no comment”:
Saying nothing gives away your right to a balanced, fair report and is often perceived as implied guilt. It is the worst thing you can do – especially if you are dealing with a crisis.
- Don’t be dismissive or rude:
This can damage your relationship with the journalist and harm your reputation. Make sure to be polite and courteous.
- Don’t make false excuses:
Lying about why you can’t do the interview can damage your credibility and reputation. Instead make sure to be direct and honest.
Media interviews provide a great space for you to deliver key messages, increase visibility, and control the narrative. After reading these key tips to succeeding at media interviews, you can be better prepared to answer questions, participate, and even decline interviews.
To learn more about how to effectively manage media interviews, Adoni Media offers extensive media training facilitated by former senior journalists, producers, and PR professionals who have decades of real media experience.