Monday, January 24, 2011

Preparing for Media Interviews: Part 1 - Know Thy Interviewer

Your PR campaign has paid off and you've been asked to be interviewed by a newspaper / magazine reporter or appear as a guest on a TV or radio program. Congratulations! The following information should help you prepare:

Gather Background Information
  1. Learn all you can about the reporter or interviewer. What's his/her style?  Is he/she experienced or knowledgeable about your field of expertise? Do they have a political leaning to the right or left? Do they have an apparent bias on your issue or topic of discussion?
  2. Learn all you can about the publication / program. What is the publication/program's reputation? What kind of journalism is the publication/program known for? What are the demographics of the audience? What's the format (news, talk show, opinion, variety show, etc.)? Is the program a call-in show? Is there a studio audience?
Knowing what to expect will go a long way toward helping you prepare for the interview and will help calm your stage fright. Ask the producer, reporter or interviewer – whoever is setting up the interview – the following questions prior to your appearance:
  1. What's the topic of the interview and why was it chosen? Most producers choose timely topics or topics of general interest to their audience. (A timely topic is something that's in the news now or in sync with the season. A topic of general interest may be interesting at any time, such as cooking tips for those who are interested in gourmet cooking.) Make relevant suggestions to the producer, reporter or interviewer to highlight your latest accomplishments or activities. For example, if the topic is entrepreneurs and home-based businesses, let your contact know about a recent acount you landed that you will be servicing from your home office.
  2. Will the interviewer pull relevant information from other sources during the interview? Prep yourself on what the interviewer will know and what types of questions will be asked. Understand from whom and from where they'll obtain information. Make yourself a source of information. Provide the interviewer with your biography and company information (promo kit, brochures, etc.) well in advance. If possible, include any public relations information your company has already produced, such as videotapes or publicity photographs for TV, and audio tapes for radio. If you'll be part of a panel, find out who the other panelists are and the points they will be making. Research their backgrounds online beforehand. Keep abreast of relevant current events.
  3. How long will the interview last? Knowing the length of the interview will help you better prepare your answers to anticipated questions. Will you be interviewed for three or 20 minutes? The shorter the interview, the more critical it is that you condense your main messages into sound bites of 10 to 20 seconds.
  4. Is the interview live or taped? Live interviews may require more practice and preparation on your part. There won't be any “retakes” if you stutter, misspeak or fail to make your point. If the interview isn't live, will the recorded interview be edited? If it is recorded but not edited heavily, prepare as you would for a live interview.
  5. Where will the interview be conducted? If the interviewer or reporter is coming to your location, create a visually enhancing environment to help project a positive image and emphasize your message. Use props, or stage a working environment or situation to illustrate your professionalism and expertise. For example, if you own and operate a flower shop, you might choose to be interviewed in front of your best flower arrangements.
  6. Don’t think of how many people are watching or listening. While you should be very careful what you say, try to focus on the interviewer and think of it as a one-on-one conversation. But remember, a good interview is not a good conversation. Prepare your message carefully, make your points succinctly and stop talking. 

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