How To Prepare For A Media Interview

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When you enter the world of PR, most people’s primary goal is to achieve media interviews. An integral part of most campaign strategies is offering yourself or your client up for interviews to talk about their business, area of expertise, or a topical news story. It’s flattering to be requested for a media interview, but the reality is that speaking in these contexts is a skill that needs to be practiced like anything else. Many major celebrities who take part in press tours as part of their contract will undergo some form of media training because it’s such a significant part of the marketing. If the talent comes off as uninterested and flat about their project, that’s going to hurt the marketing and success of the release.

In the same way, when you deliver an interview, you are a representative of your brand or company. If you can be the friendly, personable, and engaging face of your business, not only will this help with your reputation in the media, but it will increase your chances of getting invited back. Below are key things everyone should know before their first media interview.

Different Types of Media Interviews

If you are the public face of your company, you should be prepared to do interviews in various formats. Not only will this help broaden the scope of your coverage across different mediums, but it will help establish you as a versatile and media-friendly brand.

Digital and print 

For digital or print media interviews, most times a reporter will phone you up or conduct it on Zoom. Depending on the topic of the interview and how pressing the subject matter might be, reporters are usually aiming for a natural, engaging interview. These types of conversations could range between 15 minutes to an hour and are great opportunities to explore concepts and ideas in detail. Your hope is that reporters will pull the best quotes from your conversation and publish them in a feature or news piece. You should also be prepared to see your responses printed word for word in Q&A format, which is what many publications opt for. If the conversation topic is a more serious subject matter, you should also be aware that some questions may be mining for specific detail or aimed at creating a news hook.

TV

Speaking for a TV interview is an art in itself, and can almost feel like a performance. Good presentation, delivery, and strong content are essential. Over the last year, many TV interviews have been conducted on Zoom, which can be live or pre-recorded. TV reporters will have a limited slot of time allocated, meaning the more concise and direct you can speak, the better you will come across. The visual and audio setup for these is paramount, which this article will go on to explain in detail.

Podcasts

Podcasting is an interview format that requires the enthusiasm of TV and the depth of an online interview—but often with a more laid-back streak. Usually, you will be invited onto a podcast that has great relevance to your specialty, meaning a good host will format the show in a way that allows lively back and forth. It’s a perfect opportunity to show your personality and share anecdotes or personal experiences. If you are a people person, you’ll likely find that podcast interview etiquette will come easily to you.

Technical Equipment For Media Interviews

This past year more than ever, we’ve seen just how important it is for people to have the right equipment for media interviews conducted at home. At the very minimum, you should have a basic webcam and built-in microphone. For better audio, a wired microphone like Apple headphones will create crisp, clear audio. However for a truly professional setup, a podcast microphone is a worthwhile investment. A Blue Yeti microphone is a reliable choice, and prices can start from $50. Along with this, you can buy wired headphones that plug into the mic so you can hear yourself and make sure the audio is good. If you are appearing on camera regularly for media interviews, a Logitech webcam is another investment worth considering.

Lighting is the next most important step. A ring light is a cheap, reliable way to make sure you always have good lighting in your on-camera interviews. Alternatively, where possible, natural lighting will always look best. This means sitting in front of a window with the light facing you, rather than from behind which can cause dark shadows and silhouettes. The next step is to jump on Zoom with a friend and test the setup to make sure sound, picture, and lighting are all ready and working before doing the real thing.

How to Prepare To Answer Media Questions

Media interview best practices vary widely across different formats and industries. Sometimes the publicist will be able to pre-approve questions, or even provide desired talking points on behalf of the client. However in many cases both parties will agree to do an interview that is more conversational without pre-approved questions. If you are an expert on your topic, talking about it should hopefully come fairly easy to you, but every interview should come with some preparation. The best way to do this is to know what the angle of the interview will be, so you can rehearse talking points that offer real value. 

You will also feel far more prepared if you mentally identify 3-5 talking points you would like to hit. It will keep your thinking and delivery structured, and will be your best shot of including the information you feel is important. When both the reporter and the interviewee are prepared, the content of the interview tends to be strong. In other words, it’s a two-way relationship with responsibility on both sides.

How to Practice For A Media Interview

More often than not when we listen to ourselves speak, we wish we had said or done it differently. For on-camera media interviews, the best way to prepare is to record yourself doing a practice interview with your friend and watch it back. You’ll be amazed at how many phrases you might repeat, filler words that come up when you’re thinking, and even body language quirks. By spotting these early, you can avoid doing them during the real thing.

The way you deliver your interview is also important. Your voice should convey your interest and passion for the topic, while coming across as natural and not pre-rehearsed. It’s a fine balance to strike and a skill that improves over time.

Think About The Audience

If you are a high-science tech brand, the way you speak about the subject matter is going to vary hugely if you are speaking to an industry publication, versus a mainstream television audience. Just like a PR professional will tailor a media pitch to a specific outlet, your media interviews should take into account who the audience is and how to make the information accessible. 

You can also research the journalist and publication to understand if topics may be approached from a certain viewpoint. Political leanings vary hugely between different media outlets and can color the conversations in totally different ways. By overpreparing and doing your research, you’ll reduce the chances of delivering an interview that doesn’t suit the audience.

Be Prepared For Anything

Media interviews are all about being adaptable and dynamic. For the more challenging interviews, you should be prepared for the worst and expect to be pushed on contentious topics. It’s a journalist’s job to challenge their interview subjects when appropriate, and nothing can hurt your brand image more than getting caught out or unprepared for a question that could have been anticipated. 

In the same way, if an interview starts to go off in a direction you didn’t expect, be aware of what you are saying and how this could be taken out of context in the wrong hands. Steer the interview back on course if possible and don’t lose your patience if a question appears to be undermining you. 

Stay In Control

When possible, you will benefit hugely by asking for copy approval of the interview before it goes live. For many journalists, this will seem like an inconvenience, but from a PR perspective, it is one way to make sure there will be no surprises when interviews go live. Sometimes they will say no, but it is always worth asking.

For TV and podcasts, you can record from your end too and review it for any quotes or soundbites that maybe don’t sound great after listening back. Again, not all journalists will be at liberty to remove things, but for industry publications where there is an established relationship, you may find you can have some involvement in the approval process (but this should only be utilized as a backup). If you are prepared, well rehearsed, and confident in your abilities, media interviews will eventually become second nature to you. 

Hollie Geraghty

Hollie Geraghty

Hollie Geraghty is a versatile media professional with four years’ experience across journalism, content writing, social media and public relations. Specializing in entertainment, culture and the arts, she has written for national and regional publications in both print and online. In her spare time, she can be found ticking films off her watch list, and planning new travel destinations.
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