Getting ready to talk with media.

Any media interview is obviously an opportunity to get your point across.

Be aware that interviewers aren’t going to ask you a set list of questions and they are not going to ask you the questions you want.

The first thing you must do is prepare, prepare and prepare.

Know what you want to say and how you plan to say it.

Figure out what tracks you plan to follow.  Decide what points you want to raise.  Be clear about what you want to say.

It’s a good idea to rehearse your points.  Go over them with a colleague.  Become clear about what you want to say.

Work out how you will answer the hardest possible questions.  The easy ones aren’t really the problem.  The hard ones are.

Accordingly you need to decide how you plan to react when you get the hardest possible questions.

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In theory you should know which are the hardest questions.  If you are not entirely sure, get a small group of people together and go through this.

In preparation for all interviews, know what sort of audience you are talking to and what they read or what their demographic is.  How old is this audience?  How do you think they might like to be talked to?  Consider all of this.

On the day itself – when doing an interview – arrive promptly.  It’s preferable in our view to get their half an hour earlier.  You may think this is ‘over the top’ however it gives you time to go back through points in your mind, it gives you time to settle into the media environment and it gives you time to relax ahead of the interview.

With any interview you need to go in relaxed and very focused.

When doing interviews, seek to bring the interview back to your own points wherever you can.  There is nothing the matter with that.  You are there to speak on behalf of your own agenda … so set the agenda and be clear about what you want to say.

Use bridge phrases.  For instance, “Whilst we are on this subject, I’d like to make this point …” or “I think it’s important to remember the bigger picture and the bigger picture is XXX”.

When you use these kinds of phrases, even if you are not totally sure where you are heading, the reality is that by the time you’ve used the phrases, you will have automatically have worked out where you want to head.

In any interview it’s perfectly ok – obviously – for you to disagree with an interviewer.  You are not there to please them.  You are there to state your case and make the points you wish to make.  Accordingly you may come up with phrases like ‘That’s just not true …” or “I couldn’t possibly agree with that because …”.

Be clear.  Be direct.  Be firm.  Stand your ground.

Let the interview breathe like wine.  What we mean by that is take a breath at different times and pause on your information.  If you have a really big point to make, build up to it and use some pausing for effect.

An interview is not an after dinner speech.  Accordingly, you must let the interviewer ask their questions.  Don’t try and hog all the airtime.  It’s a game of verbal tennis and – as such – you must put the ball back over their net and give them the opportunity to ask the questions they want and then answer the questions.

If an interviewer has highlighted something that you know is not accurate, it’s ok to straighten than information out.  An appropriate phrase might be “I know it may seem that way but the reality is …”.

Always look at the interviewer when you can.  Keep body language friendly.  Don’t become distracted with what is happening elsewhere.  If you are in a radio studio there may be a lot going on around you.  Ignore that and stay focused on the mission.

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If you are doing TV interviews, dress for business and look like you mean business.  Dress as you feel comfortable from a business perspective – it is most important you feel comfortable in the outfit you are wearing.  Make sure you have nothing that is going to start making noises in the studio … such as jewellery or a watch.

Some other quick key points:

  • Ask the interviewer how long you have got.
  • Become aware of that time frame.
  • Establish whether the interview is live or not (many are live).
  • Don’t try to become the new best friend of the interviewer.  The interviewer is there to do a job.  So are you.
  • Know off by heart the top ten key points you are going to get across no matter what.
  • Take some notes with you and ideally use those notes subtly during the interview.
  • Try to relate points that your audience will understand.
  • Paint pictures with words of points you are seeking to get across.
  • Don’t use long winded phrases – keep your information tight and to the point.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of becoming aggressive or rude should the interviewer appear to be rude to you.
  • Know your subject and key points.  Give out contact websites and phone numbers twice.
  • Always be helpful in your attitude – you want the listener/viewer to feel that you were seeking to help the interviewer as much as possible whilst being clear about your points.
  • Become very aware that all interviews will only give you so much time so keep your answers tight, bright and sharp.  This is one of the absolute keys to interviews and ideally have some strong memorable lines that will stick in people’s minds.

Written by Ross Woodward – Company Principal of Media Key.  Media Key runs dozens of PR Campaigns every year and has run hundreds of campaigns.  Ross has appeared on national TV and numerous radio programs over a lengthy period of time.

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