Monday, July 14, 2014

Do's and Don'ts for Your Next Media Interview

Great news! The media outlet your PR team pitched is interested in your story and wants to schedule an interview this afternoon. Before you psych yourself out and mentally come up with a list of reasons why you can’t make the interview, read my handy list of do’s and don’ts that is sure to get you through your first or fortieth interview.

Do prepare for the interview. No one knows this story better than you, but it never hurts to have stats on hand, key messages and thoughts on paper just in case you to need to reference them during the interview. You should have this information with you whether your interview is over the phone or in-person. The reporter understands that you may need to reference material during an interview and will appreciate you taking the time to make sure you have the most recent statistics or facts on hand rather than giving old or incorrect information.

Don’t think anything is “off the record.” While it’s true that reporters will sometimes allow sources to go on background and not be directly quoted in a story, this is the exception, not the rule.  So if you don’t want to read about it in print, don’t say it. Even if the camera is off and the reporter is just casually talking to you, everything you say is fair game to the reporter.

Do understand that most journalists are just people who are trying to tell a good story and get home to their families. They are interested in your story and think that their audience would be interested too. The best way to help them tell your story is to provide clear information and limit the number of details you share. Think about the one thing you want the audience to take away from the story and drive that point home. A reporter will only quote a small fraction of what you say, so if you can explain your message simply and clearly it’s more likely to be a quote or sound bite. All of the other details and background you provide will be told by the reporter as further explanation throughout the story.

Don’t get too technical. When giving an interview always think of the intended audience. The way you would explain something to your coworker is different from how you would explain it to someone who doesn’t work in your industry.  It’s likely that the reporter isn’t as well-versed in the topic as you are and may not understand the industry jargon. This could lead to your message getting lost, or even worse, misinterpreted. Stating information as simply as possible will help to ensure that both the reporter and the audience understand what you’re trying to say.

Do let the reporter know if you don’t have an answer for their question. It’s better to get the right information to the reporter later than to give incorrect or misleading information that can hurt your credibility. Reporters understand that you may not have all the answers and will appreciate you finding the correct information and sending it to them after the interview. The majority of interviews are not live and there are usually a few hours between the time the interview takes place and when the article or segment is submitted to an editor for review.

Don’t ask to review an article before it’s published. Occasionally journalists will fact-check an article with the source to ensure the correct information is included. It is perfectly fine to volunteer that you’re available to answer additional questions if they need to verify information while they’re writing their story, but don’t ask to review their work before they publish it.

Just remember these tips before your next interview and your message is sure to be received.

This post was contributed by Krystal Morris.


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